Horse team toiling up a muddy Weston Road hill in 1908. From the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1191A.
Many owners, however, treated their workhorses as one might an inanimate machine. Due to the high costs of feeding and stabling, many thought it uneconomical to maintain their beasts of burden in good condition. It was, rather, more cost effective to overwork a small number of animals to death. It would not have been uncommon to see in the streets over-zealous drivers lashing their overworked beasts savagely.
Inspired by a letter to the editor in November 1886 complaining about the treatment of a particular “old and worn-out white horse” seen on the streets daily, 22-year-old journalist J.J. Kelso founded the Humane Society in Toronto. The Society’s stated objectives included preventing the beating of animals, the overloading of streetcars or freight wagons, and the working of disabled animals.