The operator of a Charleston, South Carolina, horse-drawn carriage company is suing the Charleston Humane Society and a carriage horse advocacy group for using social media posts to spread false information that allegedly hurt his business and prompted threats against his employees.

In a complaint filed on May 23, the Charleston Carriage Company LLC accuses the Charleston Animal Society, Ellen Harley, and Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates, Inc., with decimating false information about a 2016 incident involving one of its carriage horses. The complaint states that the defendants in the case published photographs of one of the company’s horses lying on his side after tripping and falling. The photographs falsely “represented a dead horse ‘collapsed’ from overwork and heat exhaustion,” the complaint said.

The suit also alleges that Charleston Humane Society and the Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates published several social media posts falsely accusing the Charleston Carriage Company and other local carriage companies of mistreating horses and working them to the point of collapse.

The false information was intended to “encourage strangers to disrupt the plaintiff’s business and (cause) the plaintiff’s employees and managers to fear for their safety,” the complaint said.

Harley, of Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates, said neither she nor the group has seen a copy of the complaint, but she believes that the suit is unfounded.

“This is yet another baseless attempt to shift the focus away from the real issue, which is the humane treatment of these animals,” she said. “At no time will these tactics distract us from our continued advocacy for these animals and the community in Charleston we represent that cares for them”

In a written statement Charleston Animal Society chief executive officer Joe Elmore also said his group has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

“Once we receive the lawsuit, we will of course respond in a factual and expedient manner, as we always have, but these continuing tactics will not discourage us from advocating for more humane working conditions for the animals,” he said.

Elmore said the group does not oppose working animals as long as they work under humane conditions in a humane environment, “and we have never called for a ban on this enterprise.”