BY ERIN DURKIN / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15, 2014, 2:30 AM
Horse carriage drivers scrambling to stop the city from banning their industry have teamed up with a St. Louis-based consulting firm that bills itself as fighting “radical animal rights extremists.”
The Cavalry Group, a lobbying and advocacy organization, has launched a social media campaign targeting Mayor de Blasio for supporting legislation to outlaw the Central Park carriage rides.
“They used to hang horse thieves. Now they elect them mayor!” read one tweet from the group.
The lobbying group also has created a website accepting donations for the drivers' legal defense fund.
The outfit has opposed several “animal rights” measures around the U.S., including a ballot question in Missouri to crack down on so-called “puppy mills” and a referendum in North Dakota that would make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm dogs, cats or horses.
On its website, The Cavalry Group declares that animal rights "extremists" are working to advance a "vegan agenda."
“Animal ownership is under attack by animal rights groups all around the country,” said Mindy Patterson, president of The Cavalry Group. “We do not purport any particular political point of view. We believe in protecting freedom and private property.”
Opponents of the city’s horse-drawn carriages criticized The Cavalry Group’s involvement.
“This is a very, very right wing group,” said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, added, “It’s a very bad selection by the carriage horse drivers to associate with a group of zealots that oppose the most basic animal welfare standards.”
Several horse carriage drivers turned to the Cavalry Group after a solicitation by the organization.
Steve Malone, spokesman for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, said the drivers would accept help from all quarters.
“We’re in the fight of our lives to save our industry and we have people from all creeds coming to our aid,” he said. “It’s not that we abide by their politics...We’re not turning away anyone who’s willing to lend a hand.”
If de Blasio succeeds in getting the City Council to ban the industry, the drivers plan to mount a legal challenge calling it an illegal infringement of property rights, Malone said.
“It’s unconstitutional to take my private property unless I’ve done something wrong,” he said, adding that restrictions in the proposed bill that would require owners to retire their horses would mean “they have to be lawn ornaments, basically.”
A consulting firm that NYCLASS has used, the Advance Group, has generated its own controversies - including work for a PAC that targeted gay City Council candidates and apparently accepting payments under a false name for its work for the teachers union.