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Demonstrators Call for Ban on Central Park Horse-Drawn Carriages


By VERENA DOBNIK - Associated Press Writer

September 21, 2006

NEW YORK -- Angry animal rights activists gathered Thursday with a message for horse-drawn carriage owners: Nay.

Upset by last week's death of a carriage horse in Central Park, protesters demonstrated outside City Hall in a call for a citywide ban on the popular tourist attraction. Juliet, a horse that spent 17 years taking visitors through the park, died Sept. 15 after collapsing hours earlier before a crowd of onlookers.

"Manhattan's streets are no place for a horse," said Michael McGraw, spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "It's hard enough to navigate on two feet, with the honking, the noise and the traffic fumes."

Juliet, whose owner said she was probably stricken with colic, was the second carriage horse to die on city streets this year. A horse named Spotty was put down in January after becoming spooked and running into a car, injuring itself, the driver and two passengers.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was performing a necropsy on Juliet to determine what killed her.

A few dozen demonstrators joined McGraw, with some waving signs that read, "There's no excuse for horse abuse." But in Central Park, carriage drivers said the horses were anything but mistreated.

"The horses live in a regular stable, like any on a farm," said Frankie Menlo, of Brooklyn. "And it's air conditioned."

The animals are rotated out of the city to a Pennsylvania farm every few months to let them rest, Menlo said. He was atop one of several hansom cabs lined up on Central Park South, where tourists pay $34 for a half-hour ride through the park.

Driver Mario Angelucci said the tourists can't believe the "mentality" of some New Yorkers toward one of the city's enduring attractions.

"It's only in Manhattan you hear this," Angelucci said of complaints about the horses' welfare.

McGraw said letters were sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council about the call for a ban. But Bloomberg said eight months ago that the carriages were monitored by a pair of city agencies and several animal welfare leagues and weren't going anywhere _ except back through Central Park.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

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