Pulling the Reins on the Horse-Drawn Carriage Industry
By Edita Birnkrant -
Friends of Animals - October 28, 2006
The sight of a horse-drawn carriage weaving its way in and out of
Midtown traffic, amidst blaring horns, aggressive cabs and trucks,
swerving bicycle riders and throngs of pedestrians, is, to New Yorkers,
just another part of the urban landscape. The horses, pulling their
antiquated carriages, are a beloved New York City tradition, some will
say. Others insist that there is nothing more romantic than taking a
moonlight carriage ride through Central Park with someone you love,
while savoring the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves on the pavement.
But every exploitative industry and practice in society exists with a
wall of illusion before it.
In January 2006, Friends of Animals helped found a coalition whose
goal is enacting legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York
City. The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages has drafted legislation
to effectively phase out this industry, and seeks to have current horses
adopted to protect them from kill auctions. The immediate necessity of
such a coalition was evident on Jan. 2nd, 2006, when a horse and driver
were on their way back to the stables, but the horse panicked, ran out
of control, and crashed into a car on 50th Street and 9th Avenue.
The horse, Spotty was badly injured and later had to be killed. The
driver, who had been thrown from the carriage, was critically injured as
were two passengers in the car.
Many accidents have involved horse-drawn carriages over the years. In
several of them, the horses were frightened by a loud, sudden noise --
typical of New York City. The natural instinct of horses is to run when
they are frightened, often unpredictably, by something that startles
them. The incident involving Spotty received particular attention, due
to its severity. Friends of Animals and other Coalition founders knew
that the time was right to get the effort for a complete ban on the
industry out to the public, and to seek support from New York City
Two more carriage disasters followed the January incident. On April
28th, in Central Park, a startled horse bolted into a 71-year old
bicyclist—who sustained serious injuries as a result. Just one week
later, on May 5th, a frightened horse collided with a moving car on 11th
Avenue. The car overturned, its driver ending up in the hospital, and
the horse sustained injuries.
By this time, the Coalition had received significant media attention,
including cover stories in both Newsday and AM NY, quotes in the Daily
News, the New York Post, and the New York Sun, in addition to my live
radio interview as spokesperson of the Coalition, by Ellis Henican and
Lynne White on 710 WOR Radio.
Our message is simple: Horses are not commercial vehicles.
The Coalition has been urging the public to boycott carriage horses
until they are officially disallowed.
On Saturdays, Coalition members and supporters have been gathering at
Central Park South, where the carriages are gathered to pick up
passengers. We’re engaged in an outreach effort to educate the public on
the exploitation of the horses, in addition to the public safety risks
the carriages pose. We have obtained endorsements from tourists and from
New York City residents on petitions, to be delivered to the City
Council and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, urging legislation that would
ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. We have also been
distributing the informative ‘What’s Wrong With Horse-Drawn Carriages in
NYC’ flyers to sustain the boycott and advise people how to advance the
effort to enact a ban.
Many cities have ended the tradition of animal-drawn vehicles. Here
is an inspiring list of the enlightened cities that have banned
Florida: Kenneth City, Key West, Deerfield Beach, Palm Beach,
Panama City Beach, Pompano Beach, Treasure Island
Nevada: Las Vegas, Reno
New Jersey: Camden
South Carolina: Broadway at the Beach
Other cities that have banned horse-drawn carriages include
Toronto, Canada; Beijing, China; Paris, France;
and London and Oxford, England.
Action You Can Take
The presence of horse-drawn carriages in New York City sends a
disturbing message that other animals are mere objects of entertainment
for tourists. The positive response we’ve received from the public
during our outreach efforts proves that not only is New York City ready
to abolish this exploitative industry—it’s long past due.
1. Boycott the Carriage Horse Industry. Educate friends and
family to the reality of this industry.
2. Contact NYC Mayor Bloomberg at
www.nyc.gov or call 311 and leave a message of strong support for
the effort to end New York’s horse-drawn carriage industry.
3. New Yorkers should contact their City Council member at:
www.nyccouncil.info and ask
them to support legislation that will end the horse-drawn carriage
4. If you use the Internet, visit
www.banhdc.org to find out about the
Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, and to get involved.