Arabbers Cleared of Animal Abuse Charges–But They’re Still in Trouble

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photo via Flickr/Union Square
photo via Flickr/Union Square

In January 2015, six of Baltimore’s arabbers — the men who sell produce around the city from horse-drawn carts — were arrested and charged with animal abuse; 14 of their horses were seized. More than a year later, the city has dropped all charges against the men, but some are worried that the incident marked the beginning of the end for one of Baltimore’s traditions.

The Sun reported that during the trial the city’s expert witness testified that there wasn’t actually anything wrong with the horses. Even so, the 14 animals have long since been adopted from the animal rescue charity where they were sent last year.

The national news media loves writing about the arabbers; I suppose they serve as a useful symbol of Baltimore’s quirky, anachronistic side. But they’re also people who love their animals and are trying to make a living; this case has made that more difficult for them. As Dan Rodricks wrote in the Sun this weekend, “Instead of seeing arabbers as walking anachronisms or public nuisances, we should find a safe, sustainable way to maintain and celebrate their existence, see that the horses are treated well, and that the arabbers are able to make a decent living selling fresh fruit and vegetables around the city.”



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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve always loved the Arabbers. I’m sorry to hear they lost their ponies though I trust that the ponies are enjoying life in a rural setting. It seems to me that the Arabbing tradition could continue with proper support from the city. For instance, I have always wondered why the city wouldn’t put stables for the mounted police unit as well as the Arabbers’ ponies in Druid Hill Park. Access to pastures would allow for healthier animals.

  2. I have always had a great affection for the Arrabers. They remind me of my (now) long-ago childhood when they wound their way through the neighborhoods chanting their very distinctive calls. My mother and grandmothers would buy fruits and vegetables from their carts. It’s as distinctively Baltimore as the Flower Mart. Surely they have a place here. Everyone keeps talking about the food deserts in Baltimore. This seems to be a very natural way of providing fresh produce to areas of the city with little access to healthy food options. It also allows the arrangers to remain employed and while preserving a tradition. Everyone wins! The city and state have found money for far less useful things. They need to find the money to help the Arrabers maintain their businesses.

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