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8 Reasons Why Horse-Drawn Carriages Cannot Be Operated Humanely or Safely in NYC

January 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


Following are eight reasons why horse-drawn carriages cannot be operated humanely or safely in NYC. No amount of regulation or enforcement can fix these issues:

1. Horses spook: Horses are prey animals who can be spooked by sirens, potholes, barking dogs and many other stimuli. When spooked horses bolt down congested city streets, they become weapons. Many horse-drawn carriages crashes in NYC have been caused by spooked horses.

Spotty died after spooking and crashing into a car, sending 3 people to the hospital.

Spotty died after spooking and crashing into a car, sending 3 people to the hospital.

2. Urban environment: Horses are living animals, but, by forcing them to work in the streets with aggressive taxi drivers, tour buses and emergency vehicles, the carriage operators are treating them like motor vehicles. They simply do not belong in the busy streets of NYC.

Who does not belong in this picture?

Who does not belong in this picture?

3. No pastures: Horses are grazing animals, but NYC has no pasture where they can graze, run, roll and interact physically, as herd animals do. They are either confined between the shafts of their carriages, encumbered by equipment, or kept in stalls.


In addition to blinders, which curb their vision, the horses eat with a cold metal bit in their mouths.

4. Housing: The horses are housed on the second and third floors of four stables on the far West Side of Manhattan. If a fire broke out in one of these buildings, where highly flammable hay is stored, the panicked horses would be unable to escape down the narrow ramps, even if someone opened their stalls one-by-one to let them out. In 2011, NYC’s Department of Health recommended that the City prohibit new stables from having stalls above the ground floor, but that change, if implemented, would have done nothing to help horses trapped in the current stables.

West side livery front

After working in the streets, the horses aren’t turned out into a pasture. They come to this and other stables in Hell’s Kitchen.

5. Car exhaust: Ingesting car exhaust can cause lung disease in horses who live a nose-to-tailpipe existence – even in Central Park, where cars are permitted at certain times of day.

Nose-to-tailpipe for nine hours a day

Nose-to-tailipe for up to nine hours each day

6. Hard surfaces: Hard surfaces can cause concussive injury to horses’ legs and feet, which were designed to walk on soft surfaces.

horse surface

Horses legs were designed to walk on soft surfaces, like grass or dirt.

7. Lack of shade: Most of the horses are stationed in Grand Army Plaza, which has no shade. During the hot summer months, they bake in the sun for hours at a time. Over the years, many carriage horses have collapsed and died from heat exhaustion.


Carriage driver pours a bucket of water on a horse who collapsed from heat exhaustion.

8. Food & water: The horses’ feed is often contaminated with pigeon droppings, which is a violation of city code.  In addition, the horses are watered out of two communal basins, which is described by one expert as “a veterinary nightmare” because the horses can transmit diseases to each other and because humans use them as trash cans.

horse pigeon

Feeding horses with grains contaminated with pigeon feed violates city code, but who is going to enforce that?

The horses have no choice but to wear blinders, but elected officials, carriage operators and patrons intentionally turn a blind eye to the obvious cruelty out of political expedience and greed. History will assuredly judge those who fought to keep horse-drawn carriages in the congested streets of New York City.

How can anyone think this is humane or safe?

How can anyone think this is humane or safe?

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support among lawmakers for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:

Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. Pamela Vancortlandt says:

    I did not know about all these serious issues. Now that i do i can see why it is so vitally important to end horse drawn carriage operation in NYC, my home town.

  2. Katrina says:

    Hello just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking
    issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show
    the same results.

  3. Linda says:

    There is no way possible for the horse drawn carriages to exist in NYC and have a humane life. I’m glad to have read this article and seen the movie Blinders which opened my eyes to the realities of this industry. We should all memorize these points so we can talk intelligently when it comes up in conversation with other NY’ers.

  4. Kathy says:

    This is not cruelty. These horses are regulated by no less than 4 agencies and are VERY well cared for. People who are not horsemen have no clue as to what good care is and how adaptable and tolerant horses can be. Much of this information is misinformation. I have had horses my entire life (I am 57). I have kept horses in Michigan, Indiana, North Dakota, Nevada, California and Kentucky. They thrive in all of those places. Please, people, do not anthropomorphize them. They are not people and while they are thinking, sentient, beings they do not have the same kinds of feeling that people do. The carriage horses in NYC are well suited for their jobs and cared for much better than most horses. As long as they are well fed and well cared for, they are content. We should all be so lucky.

    1. Donny Moss says:

      There could be 30 agencies enforcing laws, but no amount of regulation or enforcement can prevent a horse from spooking and bolting into traffic. And no amount of regulation changes the fact that the horses are working in the busiest, most dangerous city streets in the country. They simply don’t belong in the streets with cars. People will look back at the images of horses in midtown next to taxis and say, “What were they thinking?”

  5. Vicki Naffe says:

    This is horrible cruelty to thesebeautiful animals and the owners should be prosecuted!

  6. Vicki Naffe says:

    This is horrible cruelty to these beautiful animals. The owners should be prosecuted.

  7. Claudia says:

    quanta crueldade
    Exploração desumana

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