The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is conducting an inquiry into the death of a carriage horse whose collapse in Central Park was witnessed by a distraught crowd.


The horse, named Juliet, fell ill in the park on Thursday and collapsed at about 9:30 p.m.


Its owner, Antonio Provenzano, 47, of Brooklyn, said he called a veterinarian and was told the horse probably had colic, and needed to get walking to push gas and waste out of her system.


Provenzano said he began striking her in the flank with a thin whip in an attempt to make her stand, but in doing so infuriated a crowd of onlookers.


“I’m trying to save my horse’s life and all of a sudden, everyone’s yelling, ‘Stop beating that horse; you’re going to kill it,”‘ he told The New York Times. “Some big guy told me to stop or he would punch me. Then a cop showed up and said to stop or he’d arrest me. He was about to pull his gun out. All this while I have the vet on the phone telling me to keep hitting her to get her up.”


Provenzano said the situation was diffused when the veterinarian and members of the police department’s mounted unit arrived on the scene.


The horse struggled upright, but couldn’t remain standing. Helpers eventually lifted the horse on to a rug and dragged it to a police trailer for transport back to its stable. It died at around 5 a.m.


“I can’t believe this is my baby, Juliet,” Provenzano said. “For a million tourists, she was what they remember of Manhattan. Her picture is all over the world. And look at her now.”


Juliet had worked in the park for 17 years. Provenzano said he purchased her last year for $1,700. The ASPCA, which has law enforcement powers in New York City, planned a necropsy to determine the cause of death.