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New Mayor Seeks End of Era for NYC's Carriage Horses

Carriage horse dies on NYC street. Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States.
Carriage horse dies on NYC street. Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States.
January 13, 2014

NEW YORK - Horse-drawn carriage rides in New York City could soon be part of a bygone era, if new mayor Bill de Blasio has his way. He said a ban on the use of carriage-horses will be a top priority for his administration. Some call that controversial and unnecessary, but many public safety and animal welfare advocates said it has been a long time coming.

Brian Shapiro, New York state director, Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), pointed out that many tourists and the public do not realize the dangers on city streets for people and the horses. He cited a study the New York City Comptroller conducted on the horse-carriage industry a few years ago.

"Horses were lacking proper veterinary care, were not provided with enough water and risked overheating on hot asphalt. This is 2014 New York City - not 1814 New York City," Shapiro said.

Vocal opponents of the ban, from industry insiders to actor Liam Neeson, have claimed that if the horses retire they will end up at "a glue factory." Shapiro said that is false, adding that his group and others will make sure the horses are transferred to sanctuaries.

"We will see that these animals, the horses, can spend the rest of their lives in an environment that is fit for the horses - not busy, dirty, unsafe streets that we see in New York City," Shapiro said.

A pending city ordinance, Intro 86A, would phase out the horse-drawn carriages and replace them with eco-friendly electric replicas. Opponents called the ban bad for tourism and for carriage operators. Shapiro said the carriage drivers could easily transition to the new vehicles, which would be much safer in traffic and more humane for horses.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NY