NYCLASS, the animal rights group leading the fight to help the carriage horses in NYC, staged a protest at City Hall to demand that Mayor de Blasio provide some relief to the horses if he is not going to fulfill his campaign promise to take horse-drawn carriages off of the streets of midtown.
According to Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of NYCLASS, “Mayor de Blasio can act now on his own to help the carriage horses, yet he hasn’t lifted a finger.We desperately need stepped up enforcement on the streets; an update of the antiquated, inadequate laws on the books to improve the welfare and safety of the horses; and a change in the way the carriage horses operate. Too many crashes occur because horse-drawn carriages operate in heavily trafficked areas, such as Central Park South and Times Square. Just last month, three tourists from Texas were sent to the hospital after the horse pulling their carriage spooked, threw the driver from the carriage, and bolted down Central Park South before crashing into parked cars. Carriage horses also still have no protection from being sent to slaughter. This is all taking place under the Mayor’s watch. It’s a disgrace.”
Advocates argue that horses should not be pulling carriages anywhere in the congested streets of NYC, much less Times Square
When running for Mayor, Bill de Blasio made an explicit campaign pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan on the grounds that they are inhumane and unsafe. He also publicly declared that, in his administration, animal rights would move into the mainstream. As a result of his promises, the animal advocacy community in NYC rallied behind him, helping him get elected.
The animal rights group NYCLASS stages a rally at City Hall to demand that the Mayor help NYC’s beleaguered carriage horses.
“We feel betrayed,” said Jill Carnegie, campaigns director at NYCLASS. “We moved mountains to help Mayor de Blasio get elected, but the animals who he promised to help are in worse shape now than before he took office.”
Horse-drawn carriage operators are prohibited from working in inclement weather, but the city does not enforce the laws.
Join NYCLASS on Facebook and sign up for action alerts on NYCLASS.org to stay apprised of and participate in the group’s effort to help NYC’s carriage horses
In Spite of His Promises, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Has Not Even Tried To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
In a live radio interview on August 19th, Mayor de Blasio delivered a major blow to NYC’s animal advocacy community by shifting the responsibility for the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages from himself to the advocacy groups and City Council: “What I’d say to every advocate: You already have my vote. Go get the votes in the City Council and solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change.”
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages on his first day in office
On the surface, his statement sounds fair enough, but it is extraordinarily duplicitous, as it ignores the reality of how legislation gets passed in the City Council. If the Mayor wants lawmakers to support a bill, especially one that doesn’t affect their own constituents, he has to ask them – or compel them – to do so. Lobbying by advocacy groups, which is important and has been done, cannot take the place of the Mayor exerting his leadership and doing the work behind the scenes to get the bill passed.
According to Council Members, Mayor de Blasio never even asked them to support his bill to ban horse-drawn carriages
During his radio interview, the Mayor attempted to exonerate himself on the grounds that the bill lacks support in the City Council and among members of the public. What he didn’t say is that the reason for this lack of support is his own failure to lead. As Mayor, it is his job to generate that support, especially in light of the fact that taking carriages off of NYC streets was a signature component of his campaign platform.
Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages passed in the City Council without his leadership
After the Mayor made his statement, several Council Members (CMs) criticized him for shifting the responsibility for the bill to the City Council, noting that he has made no effort to generate support in the Council. Bronx CM Ritchie Torres told Politico, “The Mayor is the one who sets the agenda, and he is the one who made it a priority for the city. The notion of diverting attention to the City Council strikes me as strange. To the extent that the City Council is advancing the bill, it’s doing so on behalf of the mayor — he said it was going to be a priority from day one, so the horse carriage fight is inseparable from the mayor himself.”
Brooklyn CM Antonio Reynoso echoed Torres’ remarks in an interview with Capital New York: “The horse carriage issue is definitely the mayor’s priority, and if the mayor wants to push it in the City Council, he can do that . . . I don’t think that the responsibility of trying to push this — one of his greatest priorities — is on the Council.”
In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor) expressed his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages on the steps of City Hall
The Mayor has failed not only to lobby Council Members, but also to build public support; to speak out after carriage accidents were reported; and to address the misinformation reported by the pro-carriage press, the unions and the industry itself. In fact, the Mayor has done virtually nothing to generate support for the bill. His deafening silence and inaction in the face of growing opposition over the past 18 months resulted in a massive erosion of support in both the City Council and the general public – support that advocates spent years building.
Furthermore, the Mayor’s consistent refusal to address the issue in the media, apart from merely reiterating his support for a ban, enabled the opposition to control the story and to portray the local animal advocacy community as a group of misguided, uninformed extremists.
Horses belong on pastures or in the wild, not in Times Square
Perhaps even more duplicitous than the Mayor’s decision to renounce his responsibility for this bill is his insistence that NYCLASS, the local animal advocacy group leading the effort, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV commercial (see below) to generate public support for his bill. Why would the Mayor encourage the community to waste such a staggering sum of money, which could have been used to help other animals, in support of a bill that he already knew he had no intention of backing? Was he hoping that NYCLASS would have no money left to hold him accountable after he betrayed the community (and the horses)?
Bill de Blasio won the Mayoral election in 2013 in large part because the animal protection community brought down his chief (anti-animal) rival, Christine Quinn, and donated time and money to his campaign. The community embraced de Blasio because he said that in his administration, animal rights would move from the margins to the mainstream and, of course, because he vowed to take the horses out of harm’s way.
At some point during the past year, however, he made a calculation that walking away from his promise was more politically expedient than working to fulfill it, in spite of the fact that this decision will reflect poorly on him when, during re-election season, voters on both sides of the issue will remember him saying, “Watch me do it!”
The Mayor’s actions – and inaction – have consequences beyond the potential failure of the bill; the waste of resources; the diminished support among members of the public; and the marginization of the local animal rights community. The horses lives are as bad as ever because the city is not enforcing the laws that govern the industry.
In 2014, the ASPCA, which opposes NYC’s carriage trade but refuses to exert its power and influence to ban it, stopped doing humane law enforcement. That responsibility was assigned to the NYPD, which is unfamiliar with the law and entirely uninterested in enforcing it, thereby leaving the horses at greater risk than ever of being double-shifted, worked in temperature extremes and forced to pull overloaded carriages. When the drivers have free reign, as they do now, the horses suffer.
Please contact the following two people in the Mayor’s office, and demand that the Mayor fulfills his campaign promise: Jon Paul Lupo (Director, Legislative Affairs; 212-788-2971, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Marco Carrion (Commissioner, Community Affairs Unit; 212-788-3137, Mcarrion@cityhall.nyc.gov)
If you live in or near NYC, please join the candlelight vigil on Friday night (August 28th)
Please share this article to educate others about the status of the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, and stay tuned for next steps to compel the Mayor to do the work required to fulfill his unmistakable campaign promise.
During his campaign for Mayor of NYC and for several months after his victory in 2013, Bill de Blasio so frequently and adamantly declared his intention to ban horse-drawn carriages that some people are under the impression that they are already gone. Eighteen months after he took office, however, the horses remain on NYC’s streets, hauling tourists in the summer heat by day and languishing in cramped midtown buildings by night. What happened?
See “Watch me do it!” compilation video:
In December, 2014, a year after taking office, Mayor de Blasio introduced legislation to phase out the carriages by 2016. Since then, he has spoken about the issue rarely and only in response to questions. Neither carriage accidents nor lies in the press about his motives have triggered him to talk about the issue or his plan.
The Mayor made no comment when a horse escaped and ran down a Manhattan street in 10/2014
The Mayor, a seasoned politician, knows that city lawmakers will vote against his legislation unless he lobbies them to support it. He also knows that no amount of lobbying or advocacy by animal protection groups can get the bill passed if he doesn’t exert his leadership on the issue.
The Mayor’s silence in the face of mounting opposition to his legislation is a mystery not only to advocates but also to New Yorkers who remember that banning carriages was a signature component of his campaign platform. “Watch me do it,” he would say to the cameras.
Can the Mayor preserve his credibility when he runs for re-election if he walks away from this explicit promise? Can he turn his back on NYC’s animal advocacy community, which campaigned for him; toppled the candidacy of his chief (anti-animal) rival; and helped catapult him into Gracie Mansion?
In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor), joined fellow Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (now Speaker) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (now Comptroller) to express his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages
Since the Mayor took office, advocates with local and national animal protection organizations have spent countless hours lobbying City Council members and hundreds of thousands of dollars educating the public. They have also identified sanctuaries for the horses. But they need the Mayor to do his part. If the Mayor doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to his own legislation, then why would Council Members, who would open themselves up to attacks by the media and labor unions, support it?
Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor’s bill unless he gets behind it
So why has Mayor de Blasio been silent? Only he and members of his administration know what his intentions are. What we do know is that the hundreds of advocates who have dedicated their lives to taking the horses out of harm’s way will hold him accountable until he follows in the footsteps of his counterparts in Mumbai and San Juan, cities that banned horse-drawn carriages in 2015.
Share video to urge Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise to ban horse carriages.
NYC law prohibits horse-drawn carriage drivers from working their horses in snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions. But that didn’t stop them from working a horse at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade during a snowstorm.
Horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law by working during a snowstorm
TheirTurn told several police officers who lined the parade route that the carriages drivers were breaking the law, but none of them took action.
NYPD officers watch from the sidelines as horse-drawn carriage drivers break the law
The presence of two marching bands also didn’t keep the carriage operators away, even though the city’s horse-drawn carriage operator’s manual includes marching bands on the list of stimuli that spook horses.
Marching bands and horses don’t mix well because drums can spook them
List of stimuli that spook horses in NYC Dept. of Health’s horse-drawn carriage training manual
In fact, it was a drum that spooked a NYC carriage horse named Smoothie, who bolted down 59th street, crashed into a tree and died in front of dozens of onlookers.
Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being spooked by a drum in Midtown Manhattan
The carriage operators were very much aware of the risk, which explains why they held the reins.
Carriage drivers hold the reins to prevent horse from bolting if drums spook him
As carriage operators illegally worked a horse in a parade in Queens, several others were breaking the law on the snowy streets of Manhattan.
Carriage drivers work during snowstorm in defiance of the law (photo: Bronx resident)
Animal rights activists with NYCLASS, PETA and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) also participated in the parade, bringing animal costumes instead of a living animal.
Council Member Danny Dromm (center) is lead sponsor on bill to ban horse-drawn carriages
The carriage drivers thanked the village of Sunnyside, Queens, by leaving behind a pile of horse manure on main street. Not to worry, NYC tax dollars will pay for the clean up.
New Yorkers are fined if they don’t pick up after their dogs, but carriage drivers get a free pass
1. If you live in NYC, please ask your City Council Member to support the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages (Intro 573). If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.
“You’re scaring my child,” said one mother as she passed activists with posters showing abused elephants. She attempted to cover her son’s eyes and ears to protect him from the images and chants, but she only had two hands.
Another mother gave the finger to an activist who showed her an actual bullhook, the weapon used to beat elephants into submission or, as Ringling describes it, an “accepted elephant husbandry tool.”
Braving the elements on behalf of the elephants (photo: Miriam Lucille)
Children look at the images; parents look the other way (photos: Miriam Lucille)
One ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman with seven young children appeared stunned when an activist said, “The Torah prohibits Jews from causing Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (unnecessary physical or psychological painto any living creature). With a guilty look, she said she “didn’t know” when told that baby elephants are “kidnapped from their mothers” in the circus.
Such were the interactions between protesters and customers during opening night of Ringling Bros. Circus in New York City. Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained was there to report.
If one state lawmaker has his way, elephant performances will banned in New York. In January, Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill to prohibit the use of whips, bullhooks and chains on elephants. Without these weapons, Ringling cannot control the elephants, making it impossible to force them to perform.
Bullhooks are weapons used to force animals to perform tricks (photo: Miriam Lucille)
New York would not be the first place to ban circus elephants. In October 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported that “the City Council asked the city attorney’s office to prepare an ordinance outlawing the use of the bullhook. Baseball bats, ax handles, pitchforks and other implements used on the pachyderms would also be banned.” The ordinance takes effect in 2017. In December 2014, lawmakers in Oakland, California, voted to ban the use of bull hooks, and that law also takes effect in 2017. Elephant acts in circuses are already banned in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Paraguay, Columbia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Elephants perform tricks to avoid punishment.
Elephants are stored in boxcars when traveling between cities (Photo: PETA)
Elephants are among the most intelligent and social animals on the planet. In the wild, they live in herds, raise their children and travel long distances. In captivity, they are deprived of the chance to do anything that comes naturally to them; they live in constant fear; and are stored in cramped boxcars for days at a time while traveling between cities. They are also beaten into submission, as has been documented many times during undercover investigations conducted by animal rights organizations.
Please visit One Green Planet to learn five ways you can help end the use of animals in circuses.