The Problem: Horse Drawn Carriages Are Cruel and Inhumane
"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 (More from the ASPCA here and here.)
In just the past year alone, the following incidents have happened, causing great concern:
- In January 2016, a carriage horse trainer admitted to choking and beating the carriage horses as a "training method".
- In November 2015, Last Chance For Animals released the results of an investigation of the carriage industry which showed drivers admitting to beating horses, forcing horses to work while lame and denying the horses' access to water.
- In August 2015, a 15 year old tourist was run over by a horse carriage while riding a bicycle in Central Park.
- In April 2015, a carriage horse named Fury escaped from his stable and bolted down 48th Street without a driver.
In February 2015, a carriage horse named Tickles was killed after he broke his leg. The carriage industry has refused to disclose how he was fatally injured, despite public outcries and a public plea from Martha Stewart.
In October 2014, newly obtained accident records from the NYPD showed that there have been at least 25 accidents that were previously unknown to the public, including at least a dozen hit-and-run incidents at the hands of carriage drivers.
- In October 2014, a carriage horse named Barney broke free and escaped, running for blocks against traffic before he was corralled by the NYPD.
- In July 2014, carriage driver and industry spokesperson Christina Hansen was caught forcing her horse to work in 90 degree weather, after the NYPD had issued a suspension.
- In June 2014, a carriage horse named Pumpkin got spooked and bolted down Central Park South, causing mayhem before crashing into a taxi cab.
- In June 2014, an expose of public records from the Department of Health showed that the carriage industry had dumped more than 200 carriage horses, with no account of their whereabouts.
- In April 2014, a carriage horse named Spartacus crashed and fell to the ground when he was freaked out by a passing bus.
- In March 2014, 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 2013, 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 live a miserable nose-to-tailpipe existence. They 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 30 accidents in the past few 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.
At least seven carriage horses have died in NYC according to Department of Health records.
After they work the busy and unsafe streets of NYC, the carriage horses are often sold 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.
NYCLASS, ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States and numerous animal protection organizations have offered to provide adoption homes and lifetime care for every horse when the industry is banned.
Read more: The New York City Bar Association Animal Law Committee supports ban on horse drawn carriages.
New York City has had more than 30 known carriage horse accidents & incidents in the past few years alone -- not including many accidents that go unreported by the industry. Below are just a few examples:
- September 26, 2013: A horse named Chris spooked and bolted through Columbus Circle, sideswiped a car and flipped the carriage. Chris as pinned under the overturned carriage and freed after a group of bystanders lifted the rig off of his hind legs. The driver, Frank Luo, owner of Manhattan Carriage Co, had been charged just the previous day for operating a carriage for more than 12 hours in a 20 hour period, and for overcharging riders.
- August 16, 2012: A spooked horse took off into busy traffic, dumped the driver and two passengers, struck two cars, split the carriage in two, and ran for four blocks before being captured. The two passengers and the driver were treated for minor injuries. The horse, named Oreo, was tranquilized before being taken back to the stables.
- June 8, 2012: A carriage horse named Doreen was smacked by an SUV in Columbus Circle. Her head cracked the windshield.
- October 23, 2011: Charlie the carriage horse dropped dead on 54th Street, minutes after leaving his stable. A necropsy revealed that he died with an ulcerated stomach and a fractured tooth.
- 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.
- December 14, 2007: Carriage driver Cornelius Byrne was arrested on bribery charges of paying $100 to an undercover investigator to overlook violations at his stable. He is still in business today.
- 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.
A Shady, Lawless, Tax-Free, All-Cash Business
The horse carriage industry is a cash only business which does not use meters. Carriage drivers routinely overcharge residents and tourists rates above what they are legally entitled to charge. At the same time, the City annually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to monitor the horses, clean manure from streets and repair roadways damaged by the carriages -- because the industry pays zero concession fee to the City.
Additionally, anyone who spends more than five minutes at the hackline to observe the carriage horse drivers will routinely witness them blatantly breaking city law, such as illegal u-turns, running red lights and tying horses to telephone polls.
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 and cause delays for ambulance and first responders. 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.