Calls grow to ban carriage trade, but owners defend iconic rides; Pols saying nay to horses - NYCLASS

Calls grow to ban carriage trade, but owners defend iconic rides; Pols saying nay to horses

Roy the Begian-bred carriage horse clops up 11th Ave. past double-parked trucks, neighing as honking taxis and livery cabs zip past on his mile-long trek to Central Park. He doesn’t know it, but fighting midtown traffic isn’t the only battle his owner and operator, Ian McKeever, has been waging.

19 November 2011

 

Roy the Begian-bred carriage horse clops up 11th Ave. past double-parked trucks, neighing as honking taxis and livery cabs zip past on his mile-long trek to Central Park. He doesn’t know it, but fighting midtown traffic isn’t the only battle his owner and operator, Ian McKeever, has been waging.

“We hold New York’s most important commodity in the palm of our hands — that’s the tourist,” said McKeever, the Irish-born owner of 11 carriage horses and Chateau Stables on W. 48th St. “We give them a gateway to New York.”

But following a spate of headline-making incidents — including one where a horse dropped dead — opponents of the industry want to finally take that commodity permanently out of the hands of carriage horse drivers and owners like McKeever.

“Obviously, the number of accidents that have happened recently gives me ammunition to start talking to my fellow senators,” said state Sen. Tony Avella, a former City Councilman Council member who has introduced legislation in Albany to ban the industry from its last vestige in the city.

“There’s a reason horse-drawn carriages don’t exist anymore,” he said.

And last week , City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced she will introduce legislation to increase veterinary oversight of carriage horses.

On Oct. 23, Charlie, a 15-year-old draft horse, shocked onlookers when he suddenly fell dead in Central Park, some 20 days after his debut pulling carriages along city streets.

While the cause of death is still not known, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which polices the industry, said Charlie suffered from ulcers and had a fractured tooth.

Dr. Pamela Corey, an ASPCA veterinarian, initially concluded in a report on Charlie’s death that the agency was concerned the horse was forced to work through painful maladies.

But Corey later tried to change her statement to say Charlie’s labors didn’t contribute to his death — a move that raised eyebrows. The agency then suspended her.

She could not be reached for comment. The ASPCA, which wants to ban horse-drawn carriages, said in a statement to the Daily News that its officials were “perplexed” by Corey’s flip-flop.

The city’s Horse and Carriage Association warned against a rush to judgment. “Charlie didn’t die because he was a carriage horse,” said its spokeswoman, Christina Hansen. “We still don’t know why he died.”

Less than two weeks after Charlie’s death, another Belgian-bred carriage horse, this one named Luke, fell to the street in front of alarmed tourists on Nov. 4. A different ASPCA vet cleared Luke to resume labors after his fall, officials said.

In an earlier incident in July, a carriage horse named Billy was pulling passengers when he was spooked by a pedicab and couldn’t be stopped, the ASPCA said. Theresa Shaver, her husband, Edward, and their son Eddie, 13, were forced to jump from the carriage.

“The horse was scared,” Theresa Shaver told The Syracuse Post Standard, noting Billy twice fell to the ground, leaving onlookers in tears. The ASPCA said the horse was unhurt, but that an investigation is continuing.

And the woes of Charlie, Luke and Billy follow years of similar, saddening incidents.

Chief among them was the fate of a horse named Smoothie, who in 2007 was spooked by a drum noise, ran wildly into tree and died. One year earlier, a horse with carriage in tow galloped down a busy street and hit a car. The horse had to be put down.

“It shouldn’t be surprising to any of us that these accidents happen with regularity,” said animal activist and documentary filmmaker Donny Moss, of Greenwich Village.

He said the modern city, with its highly trafficked, paved streets, constant noise and vehicle exhaust, is an unhealthy environment for horses. He charged that the animals are routinely warehoused in stalls just large enough to allow them to lie down.

Yet supporters of the industry, including the never-ending flow of tourists who want a relaxing ride around iconic Central Park, say the horses are as much a part of the city as the Statue of Liberty.

“I think it’s a tradition that we felt like we couldn’t miss,” said Amy Henrichsen, of Texas, who took a ride after getting married in the park on Thursday . said that at this time of year, the horses are part of the holiday spirit.

“Around Christmas, it is so exciting!” she said. “It’s one of the first things to do with your kids in New York.”

By Tina Moore and Matthew Deluca
Daily News

 

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