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Amy Sacks & Lisa Colangelo – NY Daily News – January 4, 2006

Alarmed by Monday's midtown horse carriage wreck, animal protection officials called yesterday for popular horse-drawn carriages to be pulled off the streets - and confined to Central Park.

"It's just horrible," ASPCA President Ed Sayres said. "A horse can be spooked and no one is sure why - with all that stimuli, anything can do it."

Though some animal activists want the carriages banned from the city, Sayres - whose organization helps regulate the carriages - believes any changes should be less severe.

"We think a reasonable position is to keep them in Central Park and keep them out of traffic," he said. "There is obviously an economic impact, and we don't want to put carriage horse drivers out of business."

The idea is not new. In 2000, the ASPCA, the nation's oldest animal protection agency, lobbied for legislation that would have restricted carriage horses to Central Park and created other protections for the animals.

Actress and animal activist Mary Tyler Moore even went to City Hall to campaign for the bill - but it failed to win support from the City Council.

A carriage driver was seriously hurt in Monday's wreck. The horse had to be euthanized.

Elinore Molbegott, a lawyer for the Humane Society of New York, said she hopes the accident will draw attention to safety problems created by the carriages.

"We're a big city with a lot of cars, and traffic and pedestrians. It's dangerous for the people and it's dangerous for the animal," she said. "It's not a necessary part of New York life."

Under city law, carriages are permitted to operate inside Central Park and the streets immediately around the park. They also can pick up passengers around Rockefeller Center after 9 p.m.

ASPCA officers are authorized to order carriage horses off the street if it is hotter than 89 degrees or colder than 19 degrees. The ASPCA also routinely inspects the carriages, checking the health of the horses.

The drivers must be licensed by the Consumer Affairs Department. They also have to pass a Health Department course that covers caring for horses, traffic laws and other city rules.

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