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