How 'Bout a Carriage Ride?
Part 2 – September 1994 - Satya
By Laurie Jordan

On April 28, 1994, only 38 days after Mayor Giuliani signed the bill known as Local Law 2 into effect, a carriage horse collapsed on the streets of Manhattan. It had to be euthanized by vets from the Animal Medical Center. Days later, on May 16th, another carriage horse collapsed and died. In the first part of her article, Laurie Jordan explored the history of the Carriage Horse Trade, up to the enactment of Local Law 89. This article concludes that story.

In the Fall of 1989, favoring more restrictive legislation on the Carriage Horse Trade, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone made impassioned speeches and quoted Gandhi, proclaiming: “The worth of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals.”

Mayor Koch vetoed the Dryfoos Bill (his campaign had been backed by Thomas Manton, a staunch supporter of the Carriage Horse industry), but for the first time in twenty years, the City Council overrode a Mayor’s veto and enacted the Bill by a vote of 28-4. This became Local Law 89. Unenlightened Councilmember Noach Dear (not “dear” to the carriage horses, he is set against any regulation of the industry), and three other councilmembers were absent. Theirs were the four “No” votes.

Immediately, drivers rebelled and petitioned a two-week stay, subsequently filing a $415 million lawsuit against the Carriage Horse Action Committee and ASPCA. The time-consuming suit detained the passage of another bill (as was intended) and accrued expensive legal costs.

Although five agencies were chosen to enforce LL89, there was still little enforcement. Carriages were seen in restricted areas, especially in the theater district before curtain up, and horses were still living and working in deplorable conditions. Although under this ruling drivers were permitted to operate with four passengers, there were often up to six and sometimes passengers could be seen sitting — illegally — in front with the driver. If horses were seen in midtown traffic during rush hour, drivers simply said they were bringing them back to their West Side stables. Due to loopholes in the law, drivers could often be seen in restricted areas with their carriages. When citizens pointed out violations, drivers became insolent and threatening.

Summonses were repeatedly “lost” or disregarded in city agencies, to the degree that police officers stopped trying to enforce regulations, feeling it was a waste of their time. Many officers were not even aware that laws existed protecting carriage horses and thought (incorrectly) that city horses were accustomed to traffic and noise — and so didn’t issue carriage horse violations.

Three Accidents

In May 1990, only five months after LL89 was enacted, three accidents occurred. One, due to faulty harnessing, ended in a wild police chase to stop a panicked horse. Another involved an unattended horse at Grand Army Plaza, resulting in four wrecked yellow cabs and a hospitalized cab driver. The third took place when a carriage horse named Tony was hit by a Metro Apple bus. The bus driver forced his vehicle upon Tony repeatedly while weaving in and out of lanes during rush hour.

Another driver, Ms. Young, who was driving the carriage behind Tony’s, said in her deposition: “The bus started to overtake them...weaved in and out of the right lane, got too close and struck the horse’s head with its right side... The bus continued to move as the horse continued to get struck and finally went down, losing its footing in the asphalt, until it spooked, screamed and fell to its death under the bus.” She added that the bus appeared to be “playing” with the carriage. No one was charged with any violation, neither of traffic laws, nor Local Law 89, nor cruelty to animals.

Tony and one-half of the carriage horses were owned by an Aer Lingus pilot who resided in Ireland. The owner was not held responsible, nor was the bus driver. Tony was disposed of in a landfill. The Metro Apple bus passengers were one hour late in returning home that evening. It was back to business as usual.

Proponents of LL89 pressed on. The merits of LL89 — fewer accidents or traffic tie-ups in midtown, and less abuse to horses — were being played down by the carriage industry, and attempts were being made to eliminate the law. Although 95% of practicing vets and veterinary schools were in favor of LL89, this had little impact and was largely ignored when a less restrictive but ridiculously complicated (and unenforceable) bill (Int. 410-A) was introduced.

Mayor Dinkens vetoed the bill, saying it would place carriages in environmentally impacted areas, which neither he nor the EPA would approve. However, the main issue was an implicit major loss of federal transportation dollars if NYC traffic was further impaired.

Even with an outrageous lack of enforcement, carriage drivers still complained that the law was hurting them economically and that ridership was down. Noach Dear (soon to be Chairman of the Committee on Transportation) called an oversight meeting to “examine the economic impact imposed on carriage owners by LL89.” It should be noted that these events occurred during the recession and all industry was affected. Interestingly, there were more carriage drivers than ever.

On August 13, 1993, Speaker Peter Vallone vowed to renew regulations on the horse and carriage industry and to extend LL89 to December 31 of that year. Although his bill (797-A) was introduced, he didn’t want it publicized until after the elections on November 2. This would allow only a few weeks for hearings which normally took months.

Mayor Dinkens vetoed Int. 806-A in December of 1993, saying he did not wish to pass any law which would add to the horses’ burden or further congest the city. He expected the council to initiate more favorable legislation before Mayor-elect Rudolph Giuliani took office.

Incidents of abuse were cited, although carriage horse drivers insisted they did not overwork or exploit their horses. In one of the most brutal winters, from late December through mid-January, horses were not blanketed and were left to stand outdoors daily while drivers were observed intoxicated, sitting huddled with blankets in the backs of carriages, drinking brandy or hot coffee to keep them warm in sub-freezing temperatures. When pedestrians or motorists approached carriage drivers with valid complaints, such as observing more than four passengers in a carriage, or watching a driver whip a horse that had skidded on icy streets, they were met with obscene gestures, rhetoric, threats, and responses such as “We’re free from your ——— laws.”

Local Law 2

Many more maneuverings, meetings and hearings led to the expiration of LL89. It was replaced with a much more lenient Int.28-A, which became Local Law 2. Although in his campaign, Mayor-elect Giuliani had promised to support humane legislation for carriage horses, like his predecessor Mayor Dinkens, he reneged with the backing of Councilmember Thomas Manton, and replaced LL89 with Int.28-A (LL2). Proponents of LL89 consider LL2 a fraud offering little protection for the horses. It was in fact nothing more than a concession to the budget and carriage industry, certainly not humane legislation. It has been characterized along the lines of “some law is better than no law.”

Since the signing, two horses have died on the streets of Manhattan. No necropsy was performed in either case, but a diagnosis indicated poor horse management (poor feeding routines, lack of water, inadequate medical attention and stabling practices).

Some blamed it on ‘tying-up’ syndrome, an extreme cramping of the rear legs, which can cause them to collapse, leading to the horse’s death. Tying-up syndrome can occur in well-maintained stables, but generally happens in horses that are poorly cared for. If the horse has not been warmed up before working all day (long hours without break periods in cold weather), this condition can occur. Summer months cause other problems. Fluid and electrolyte disorders are major factors in the development of exhaustion. When working horses are not given enough water, their body temperatures become dangerously high. Sweat rates may approach 10 to 12 liters per hour with prolonged exercise.

Horses must have access to water in hot environments. A sedentary hay-fed horse is said to take in 18-27 quarts of water daily. Carriage horses are not sedentary. Unlike a dog, a horse will not rest when it becomes fatigued or dehydrated. It still continues to do as its master beckons. Is it any wonder horses become exhausted and collapse on city streets?

The Human Factor

Horses are not the only innocent victims of the industry. Two-legged animals are also affected. In September 1985, four elderly women, all retired school teachers, were catapulted from their carriage when their horse, frightened by the panic and noise of a horse carriage behind them that had been hit by a speeding car, also bolted into the intersection, and collided with a limousine, ending up on the hood before falling to the street.

All the women returned home to Boston in wheelchairs and slings. No one was compensated for medical or court costs which none of them could afford. One of the ladies is going blind in one eye due to severe trauma to the head. The judge ruled the incident “an act of God” due to the fact that the horse had no previous record of “dangerous propensities.” This is only one case of many, and usually the victims are not compensated, no matter how severe their injuries.

It is ironic that carriage horses are allowed to have such freedom in a city known to have the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Other cities such as Chicago and L.A. employ limited hours and specific routes, some only during prescribed times of the year. How many more accidents must occur before tougher legislation is enacted?

The next time I hear that all-too-familiar greeting, “Hey lady, can I offer you a carriage ride? Special today...,” etc., I’ll make sure I say loudly and clearly, “No thanks. I’d rather walk. It’s better for my health and the horse’s.”

A retraction: Please note that there was no connection between the law firm of Manton, Dowd, & Pennisi and attorney Albert J. Anastasia, Jr. They were two separate entities — the only similarity being that both represented the interests of the carriage operators during the early 1980s.

Laurie Jordan has been an animal advocate for eight years and has been a vegetarian for nine. She teaches a group of ten-year-olds who believe that “carriage horses deserve our helping hands.”

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