The True Story Behind the Carriage Horse Industry in New York City
By Elizabeth Forel
HORSE NATION – FALL 2006
The Coalition was formed in January 2006 in response to one of the more hideous traffic accidents involving a carriage horse.
On the cold and wet evening of January 2, 2006, Spotty, a young horse who had only worked as a NYC carriage horse for a few months, was on his way back to this stable when he unexpectedly ran out of control and threw his driver (who ended up on a coma). Perhaps spooked by a loud noise, and still attached to his carriage, Spotty wildly galloped several blocks before crashing head-on into a station wagon. He was seriously injured and later euthanized.
There had been numerous other carriage horse accidents over the years, but this event was the deciding factor in turning public opinion against the industry. London, Paris and Toronto have all banned horse-drawn carriages.
The carriage horse trade in New York City has long been considered a politically protected institution. Politicians have accepted the industry as a tourist attraction without delving into its actual popularity. Over the years, animal welfare groups have tried numerous times to improve conditions for the horses – mostly to no avail. The status quo changed after the January 2nd incident.
The accident also prompted the creation of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, an organization made up of several groups and individuals, with two goals – to pass legislation to phase out the carriage horse industry and to find good homes for the horses.
Every weekend, the Coalition engages in outreach near Central Park and the hack-line, obtaining petition signatures from both tourists and NYC residents. (the petition is directed to the Mayor and City Council.) The response has been overwhelming. Tourists tell Coalition activists they have never seen such sad horses and it spoils their trip, while New Yorkers confess that they are glad someone is finally doing something about the dangers inherent in the carriage horse industry.
To learn more about and to sign the Coalition’s petition, please visit www.banhdc.org.
COALITION ACTIVITIES & ACTIONS
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages has received quality media coverage in the widely read daily newspapers New York Newsday and AM-NY, as well as an interview on ‘Henican and White’ of WOR Radio, and additional coverage in the New York Sun. Particularly because of the article in AM-NY, a popular paper freely given away at subway stations and in newspaper boxes throughout NYC, many people are now aware of the plight of New York City’s carriage horses.
The Coalition’s press release and coverage prompted WCBS TV Channel 2 to do an online poll on May 12 asking “Should horse-drawn carriages be banned from Manhattan streets?” The results of that poll that the Coalition presented to City Council members indicated 77% in favor and only 23% against such a ban. In addition, The Coalition for New York City Animals, which is the founding member of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, was instrumental in persuading Council Members Gale Brewer and Leticia James to withdraw their sponsorship of a bill that was lobbied hard by the Carriage industry and would put the burgeoning Pedicab industry - their competition – out of business. Visit the Coalition’s web site to read a draft of legislation that would effectively put an end to the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City.
ABOUT THE COALITION
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages is a coalition of five founding member organization and several individuals. The Coalition depends on volunteers and donations from caring people like you to enable it to succeed. Funding is needed for advertising, campaign materials, research and to launch its Expert Witness Fund. For more information, visit the Coalition’s web site.
The Coalition for New York City Animals, a 501 (c ) 4 not for profit corporation, is accepting donations on behalf of the Coalition’s efforts. You may send your donation to the Coalition for New York City Animals, Inc. PO Box 20247 Park West Station, New York, NY 10025 – or you may donate online by credit card through Paypal via the Coalition’s web site www.banhdc.org
Elizabeth Forel is an activist and director of the Coalition for New York City Animals in New York City. Along with her editorial, additional information from the Coalition’s to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages’ web site was used in this article.
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