League of Humane Voters of New York City - Memorandum of Opposition
Intro. No. 44 by Council Member Tony Avella
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A Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to horse drawn cabs.

The League of Humane Voters of New York City (?LOHV-NYC?), an animal protection political action committee with 6,000 members citywide, opposes Intro. No. 44. Intro. No. 44 does no more to help the plight of the horses and protect human safety than to restrict the operation of horse drawn cabs to the area inside or immediately adjacent to Central Park and to place minimal restrictions on their time of operation. The proposed legislation fails to address the multitude of egregious hazards and hardships imposed on the horses.

Intro. No. 44 appears only to address the public outcry following a tragic accident involving the operation of a horse drawn carriage in New York City?s congested streets. The accident occurred on January 2, 2006 when a horse pulling an empty carriage through Midtown Manhattan was suddenly startled and dashed down Ninth Avenue, galloping for several blocks before colliding with a station wagon at 50th Street. The cab driver was critically injured and taken to the hospital along with the two passengers of the automobile. The horse, five years old and working among city traffic for only a few months, was badly injured and later euthanized. While Intro. No. 44 appears to address the dangers inherent in horse drawn carriages being operated in NYC?s congested city streets, it would fail to accomplish even this with regard to the January 2 incident. In this particular accident, the horse carriage was being driven back to the stables and not being operated as part of its ordinary business hours. The proposed legislation does not prohibit the operation of the carriages to and from the horse stables. With the stables being located anywhere up to over a mile from Central Park, it is inherently dangerous for the horse carriages to be operated as long as the stables are maintained in those distant locals. Barring all new stables being built and maintained in Central Park itself, an outright ban of the carriage horse industry is the only measure that would prevent, once and for all, the dangers inherent in their operation to human and non-human safety.

The Current Law (Section 20-381.1, NYC Administrative Code)

The current law places only the following geographic restrictions on the operation of horse drawn cabs on New York City streets. While they may only be driven and operated on the area inside or immediately adjacent to Central Park in Manhattan between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, the restrictions are far looser at other times, on Saturdays and Sundays, and very interestingly on holidays such as Christmas and New Year?s Day. For example, between the hours of 9:00 p.m. through 11:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, between 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and between 1:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Sundays, the horse drawn cabs are restricted only from being driven and operated in Manhattan on the areas bounded by and including the following streets: on the north by West Fifty-seventh Street, on the east by Seventh Avenue, on the south by West Forty-second Street and on the west by Ninth Avenue; and on the north by West Sixty-fifth Street, on the east by Columbus Avenue, on the south by West Fifty-seventh Street and on the west by Amsterdam Avenue.

The Purpose of Intro. No. 44

Intro. No. 44 serves the very limited purpose of addressing the streets on which horse drawn cabs may be operated, restricting it to the area inside or immediately adjacent to Central Park in Manhattan. The intent of the proposed legislation, introduced by Council Member Avella, is indicated as being warranted in the interests of public safety and welfare.

LOHV-NYC?s Reasons for Opposing Intro. No. 44

While Intro. No. 44 appears, on its face, to make a laudable attempt to prevent traffic accidents, as the one described above, it would not have prevented this accident and the loss of the horse Spotty?s life since Spotty was pulling the carriage back to the stable post operation, just as it will not safeguard our streets from similar accidents involving transport to and from the stables to the Park.

LOHV-NYC opposes Intro. No. 44 not for what safeguards it attempts to propose but for those it fails to propose. First and foremost, Intro. No. 44 fails even in its clear singular purpose because it does not propose that the industry?s horses be housed in stables built and cited in Central Park. It makes no recommendation for any changes to the location of the five current stables on the West Side from 37th to 52nd Street.

More importantly, Intro. No. 44. fails to address fully or even remotely the multitude of egregious concerns described below.

Traffic Hazards

New York City is undoubtedly one of the most traffic congested cities in the United States. Carriage horses are simply out of place in midtown?s congested streets, belonging to earlier era when there were far fewer vehicles and pedestrians. Placing horse drawn carriages with the City?s cars, taxis, busses, emergency vehicles, bikes and pedestrians is a recipe for disaster. In recent years, there have been many accidents where both horses and humans have been seriously injured or died and property damaged. Contrary to operators? claims, most horses are not at all comfortable working among cars and trucks. Horses can be easily ?spooked? no matter how well trained they may be. They may become startled by sudden noises like siren, horns, motorcycles and thunder, and cause accidents by panicking and running into traffic or onto sidewalks.

The nostalgia associated with the image of horse buggies drawn on dirt and/or cobblestone roads, and the simpler life associated with these times, whether actual or imagined, is a common and understandable emotion, but is clearly out of synch with today?s reality. While we yearn for the past or at least its small token reminders, life it is not what was in the days when horse drawn buggies were a necessary and regular mode of transportation, and the horses are plainly out of place amidst NYC?s busy and dangerous roads.

Unhealthy and Inhumane Conditions

In longing for yesterday, people romanticize and yearn to preserve a little bit of what used to be. While this is a beautiful and sentimental notion, it is doubtful that if people genuinely knew the cruelty and suffering inflicted upon and endured by the horses, they would continue to consider horse buggies charming and long for the preservation of the industry. Carriage horses do not lead joyous and healthy lives. Should that have been even minimally a concern of the industry, advocates pleas for time and space to be allocated in Central Park or elsewhere for the horses to run and play freely would have answered. Instead, the horses live very short depressing and unhealthy lives. Because of their previous uses on racetracks or on Amish farms, many of the horses come into the industry with preexisting injuries or arthritis and are forced to pull carriages containing heavy loads ? upwards of 700 ? 800 pounds. When these horses are no longer fit to work (generally lasting only 4 years in the industry, as opposed to police horses who generally last about 14 years), they are ?retired? and generally sold off at auction, often being bought to be taken to the slaughterhouse and sold as a delicacy to European countries or used as dog food.

Some of the harsh circumstances that describe the bane of the horses? existence and the reason for their early demise are described below.

The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are dangerous for the horses. With their nostrils being usually only 3 to 3 ? feet above street level, the horses are in a direct line with vehicle tailpipes, naturally resulting in respiratory impairment. And, as a consequence of the horses constantly walking and standing on hard streets, lameness and hoof deterioration occur. Problems, such as this, are exacerbated by many carriage owners? and drivers? incapability of recognizing a horse?s lameness or their unwillingness to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service even temporarily to restore its health. Owners/drivers? lack of attention to the physical care-taking of the horses is also evidenced by their use of ill-fitting harnesses which cause skin sores, bone bruising, and neck, shoulder and back problems, and their use of cruel bits which cause painful mouth, teeth and gum problems. Weather conditions pose another drastic and sometimes fatal danger to the horses. Horses must work in hot humid temperatures and in the brutal cold up to nine hours a day, seven days a week and then return to stuffy filthy stables where they have no opportunity for turnout. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heatstroke can die in just a few hours. While NYC prohibits the operation of carriage horses at certain extreme temperatures, the temperature reading is very often significantly lower than the scorching hot temperature of the streets (bearing directly on the horses? hooves and bodies).

Impossible to Adequately Enforce

It is impossible to adequately enforce the laws governing carriage horses. Although the NYC Police Department and the Department of Health and Consumer Affairs share responsibility for their enforcement, along with other animal protection legislation, with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (?ASPCA?), the primary enforcement responsibility falls to the ASPCA. Significantly, the ASPCA?s Humane Law enforcement Program is funded through private donations and not by the City of New York. With only 21 agents, the ASPCA simply lacks the manpower and resources to work on the vast animal cruelty issues all over the City (and sometimes throughout the state of New York, since it has jurisdictional powers over the state). With over 68 carriages and 200 horses and 360 drivers, the ASPCA?s few agents clearly cannot ensure that the drivers are obeying the laws.


The waste from the horses on the streets and in the Park causes a large sanitation problem. Even when the horses are not lined up for business on Central Park South, the pervasive smell of horse urine and feces pervades this area and to a lesser extent the Park roads where millions of New Yorkers and tourists flock to enjoy the Park?s beauty and recreational bounty.

Immoral Industry

Very simply, based on all the hardships inflicted upon carriage horses described herein and many more not even mentioned in the confines of this brief memo, the carriage horse industry exploits animals in the sake of entertainment. As with plainly immoral institutions, it must be dismantled regardless of the economic impact.

In Conclusion ?

LOHV-NYC opposes Intro. No. 44 for because it does very little in the way of safeguarding future traffic accidents and virtually nothing to improve the welfare of the animals exploited by the industry. LOHV-NYC encourages the full City Council to oppose this legislation and to work with organizations such as ours and their constituents to promote a reverence for life and bring about meaningful change. I thank you personally for your attention to our members and supporters?, and what we expect to be a majority of the NYC?s population, deeply held views on this matter. If you have any questions regarding this issue, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (212) 889-0303.

Lisa Virgona, Esq.
Board President and Legal Counsel

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