The Problem: Horse Drawn Carriages
"The life of a carriage horse on New York City streets is extremely difficult and life threatening, and the ASPCA has long believed that carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today’s urban setting." ~American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
In just the past year alone, the following incidents have happened, causing great concern:
- In July, a carriage driver was caught forcing her horse to work in 90 degree weather, after the NYPD had issued a suspension.
- In June, a carriage horse named Pumpkin got spooked and bolted down Central Park South, causing mayhem before crashing into a taxi cab.
- In April, a carriage horse named Spartacus crashed and fell to the ground when he was freaked out by a passing bus.
- In March, a carriage driver was caught forcing his sick, elderly horse named Ceasar to work, by trying to switch identities with a younger, healthier horse named Carson. Both horses have since gone missing.
- In December, a carriage driver was arrested for animal cruelty for forcing Blondie the carriage horse to work for four days while she was severely injured.
The harsh reality of the life of a carriage horse working in New York City is that horses simply are not meant to work in dangerous midtown traffic.
The 220 horses (68 medallions) routinely work at least nine hours a day, seven days a week, pulling a vehicle that weighs hundreds of pounds, on hard pavement, while breathing exhaust from cars, buses and taxis. Unaccustomed to the urban environment, horses can be "spooked" easily and cause accidents that inflict great damage on vehicles, drivers and most often, the horses themselves. There were more than 20 accidents in the past two years alone -- and those are just the known accidents reported by the public.
At the end of the day the horses travel 1-2 miles through dangerous rush hour traffic to their stalls in stables in Hell's Kitchen by the Lincoln Tunnel and the busy West Side Highway, or as Jon Stewart once called it, "The sad-eyed horse carriage district." The carriage industry denies the horses any daily turn-out or pasture time to graze, roll and socialize freely on grass, which equine veterinarians agree is needed daily for horses to live healthy lives.
After they work the busy and unsafe streets of NYC, the carriage horses are often to auctions in Pennsylvania where they can be - and are - sold to kill-buyers who transport the animals to Mexico or Canada to be brutally slaughtered for exported meat.
New York City has had more than 20 known carriage horse accidents & incidents in the past few years alone. Below is just a partial list, and does not include incidents that go unreported by the industry:
November 3, 2010
A New York City bus hit a horse during rush hour. The carriage horse was grazed by the bus on 7th Avenue, at around 54th street. A witness says the horse "was spooked and evidently frightened out of his/her wits.
September 19, 2009:
A cab plowed into a horse-drawn carriage near Central Park. Both drivers were taken to the hospital.
September 14, 2007:
A horse that was spooked by a street performer's drum ran nearly a block along the sidewalk before slamming into a tree, collapsing and dying. The horse's panicking caused a second horse - which was still attached to a carriage- to dart into traffic and collide with a car.
June 2, 2007:
A spooked horse which was pulling a carriage was hit by an SUV at an intersection after the horse galloped away from his driver. When the horse fell, the carriage broke loose, was propelled into the air, and landed on the curb, barely missing pedestrians.
April 28, 2006:
A young horse being trained to pull carriages became spooked and bolted, colliding with, and critically injuring an elderly bicyclist in Central Park.
January 3, 2006:
A horse got spooked and galloped into a station wagon on Ninth Avenue and 50th Street on his way back to the stable. The carriage driver was hospitalized in critical condition with a fractured skull. The horse was pinned under a car for half an hour and later died.
Public Safety Concerns
Horse carriages are dangerous to passengers, carriage drivers and others who use New York streets. Horses spooked by loud noises on busy streets have bolted into traffic, sending coachmen and other drivers to the hospital, and leading to the horse’s death. In addition to the immediate safety risks caused by horse carriages, jagged ruts made by carriage wheels are dangerous for cyclists, runners and pedi-cabs using the areas in and around Central Park. The horses are also exposed to conditions that present a danger to their wellbeing, causing dehydration, permanent injury and even death.
Slow moving carriages hold up traffic on already over-crowded streets, causing back-ups and blocking busy streets. Accidents, big or small, caused by the horse carriages can delay drivers for hours. This traffic congestion is not only frustrating for drivers; the idling cars also increase the amount of car exhaust in the air, polluting the air we breathe and accelerating global warming.
The areas where the carriages line up to wait for customers have an unpleasant odor that disturbs nearby residents and visitors. Carriage drivers often do not clean up after the horses, leaving waste and rotting debris in New York’s streets. Even, worse, city health officials must regularly monitor the horses for diseases that could be transmitted to other animals and even to the human population.
Lack of Economic Benefits for New York City
The horse carriage industry is a cash only business which does not use meters. Carriage drivers routinely charge residents and tourists rates above what they are legally entitled to charge. The lack of any financial accountability controls creates a vacuum of potential revenue for the City. At the same time, the City annually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to monitor the horses, and repair roadways damaged by the carriages. The status quo presents a losing situation for New York City.