Carriage Horses – A New York Issue

On average, a working life for a NYC carriage horse is 4 years before being sold, where a NYC police horses survives 14-15 years.  If that’s not proof enough for you never take a carriage ride again, then read on to learn more about the dejected life of a NYC carriage horse.

5 July 2013
By Samantha Penley

The Problem:

On average, a working life for a NYC carriage horse is 4 years before being sold, where a NYC police horses survives 14-15 years.  If that’s not proof enough for you never take a carriage ride again, then read on to learn more about the dejected life of a NYC carriage horse.

There are 220 horses routinely working at least 9 hours a day (many do overtime), pulling a carriage that weighs hundreds of pounds, on hard pavement, while surrounded by loud and aggressive vehicles.  Unaccustomed to the urban environment, these horses can be “spooked” easily and cause accidents that inflict great damage on vehicles, drivers and most often, the horses themselves.

At the end of the day the horses return to their dreary stalls on the far West Side of the city.  They have to cross lanes of  highways and many must climb flights of stairs to get to their jail-like stalls.  Jon Stewart once called it, “The sad-eyed horse carriage district.”. The cramped spaces don’t allow these enormous animals to lie down or to move about freely. Nor are they afforded any turn-out or pasture time, which equine veterinarians agree is needed for horses to live healthy lives.

Fact:  They are forced to work without proper health care, sleeping condition, or workplace safety.


After they work the busy and unsafe streets of NYC, the carriage horses (once “used up”) are sent to auctions in Pennsylvania where they can be – and are – sold to kill-buyers who transport the animals to Mexico or Canada to be inhumanely slaughtered for exported meat. 


The Business of Carriage Horses:

This $19 million dollar industry is a tough one to break.  It’s making money under the table and is run by people who DON’T have the horses in their best interest. 

There are 68 carriage horse medallions or licenses in the city.  Majority of these carriage drivers are “business” men (I use that word lightly), so as much as they claim they care for their horses, their main interest is making money.  Many times the horses are forced to work in extreme heat and cold weather conditions, longer days, and forced to maneuver unsafely through highways and moving NYC traffic.

Fact: It’s a cash industry.  Many carriage drivers don’t have to claim what they make, which makes it harder to fight against them.





The Organization Making All the Difference:

NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) is a 501(c)4 non-profit animal advocacy organization committed to ending the inhumane practices of the NYC carriage horse industry and promoting a clean and safe alternative to this outdated tradition.  “We’re not against horses having a job or against a horse pulling a carriage.  The issue is that horses don’t belong working in the unsafe streets of New York City”, says a member of the organization.




NYCLASS has successful partnerships with Peta, the ASPCA, The Humane Society of the United States, LCA, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, Animal Haven, and many more!  Talk about good partners to have!

Fact: New York City has the highest horse-drawn carriage accident rate in the country

Please visit their website to find out how you can give back, volunteer, or help spread the word.



Bad Politics:

Currently Chirstine Quinn is running for Mayor and seems to be the villain in anything that has to do with helping New York City’s mistreated horses.  Since becoming Speaker, Quinn has not only blocked every meaningful animal protection bill introduced at City Hall, but, in an attempt to discredit her critics, she has also fast-tracked faux reform bills that give the impression of helping animals.*  Be sure to help spread the word about Christine Quinn!  And DON’T vote for her!

Below are some publications about Christine Quinn, proving her lack of empathy for these horses.



*Source –


The Solution:

NYCLASS advocates want to retire the carriage horses to sanctuaries, while modernizing the current industry with a clean and safe alternative to this outdated tradition – the 21st Century Horseless Carriage.  NYCLASS supports City Council’s Intro. 86A, sponsored by council woman Melissa Mark-Viverito.  This legislation will phase out the horses in New York City and replace them with a fully electric vintage-replica vehicle. 


Tourist will still have the benefit to tour the city in a “classic” open seated way, but will not be contributing to the harm of animals.  They also offer jobs to workers currently in the horse carriage industry with the potential for higher wages, fewer days of work lost to weather restrictions and safer working conditions.

NYCLASS earns an A+ in their efforts and success so far.  This extremely organized group has their facts down, and is making huge headway around the carriage horse issue.  If there is one animal activist group to follow it’s this one.  Not only are they standing up for the cause, they are also finding solutions that’s a win-win for everyone.


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