Pulling the Reins on the Horse-Drawn Carriage Industry

By Edita Birnkrant - Friends of Animals - October 28, 2006

The sight of a horse-drawn carriage weaving its way in and out of Midtown traffic, amidst blaring horns, aggressive cabs and trucks, swerving bicycle riders and throngs of pedestrians, is, to New Yorkers, just another part of the urban landscape. The horses, pulling their antiquated carriages, are a beloved New York City tradition, some will say. Others insist that there is nothing more romantic than taking a moonlight carriage ride through Central Park with someone you love, while savoring the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves on the pavement.

But every exploitative industry and practice in society exists with a wall of illusion before it.

In January 2006, Friends of Animals helped found a coalition whose goal is enacting legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages has drafted legislation to effectively phase out this industry, and seeks to have current horses adopted to protect them from kill auctions. The immediate necessity of such a coalition was evident on Jan. 2nd, 2006, when a horse and driver were on their way back to the stables, but the horse panicked, ran out of control, and crashed into a car on 50th Street and 9th Avenue.

The horse, Spotty was badly injured and later had to be killed. The driver, who had been thrown from the carriage, was critically injured as were two passengers in the car.

Many accidents have involved horse-drawn carriages over the years. In several of them, the horses were frightened by a loud, sudden noise -- typical of New York City. The natural instinct of horses is to run when they are frightened, often unpredictably, by something that startles them. The incident involving Spotty received particular attention, due to its severity. Friends of Animals and other Coalition founders knew that the time was right to get the effort for a complete ban on the industry out to the public, and to seek support from New York City Council members.

Two more carriage disasters followed the January incident. On April 28th, in Central Park, a startled horse bolted into a 71-year old bicyclist—who sustained serious injuries as a result. Just one week later, on May 5th, a frightened horse collided with a moving car on 11th Avenue. The car overturned, its driver ending up in the hospital, and the horse sustained injuries.

By this time, the Coalition had received significant media attention, including cover stories in both Newsday and AM NY, quotes in the Daily News, the New York Post, and the New York Sun, in addition to my live radio interview as spokesperson of the Coalition, by Ellis Henican and Lynne White on 710 WOR Radio.

Our message is simple: Horses are not commercial vehicles.

The Coalition has been urging the public to boycott carriage horses until they are officially disallowed.

On Saturdays, Coalition members and supporters have been gathering at Central Park South, where the carriages are gathered to pick up passengers. We’re engaged in an outreach effort to educate the public on the exploitation of the horses, in addition to the public safety risks the carriages pose. We have obtained endorsements from tourists and from New York City residents on petitions, to be delivered to the City Council and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, urging legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. We have also been distributing the informative ‘What’s Wrong With Horse-Drawn Carriages in NYC’ flyers to sustain the boycott and advise people how to advance the effort to enact a ban.

Many cities have ended the tradition of animal-drawn vehicles. Here is an inspiring list of the enlightened cities that have banned horse-drawn carriages:

Florida: Kenneth City, Key West, Deerfield Beach, Palm Beach, Panama City Beach, Pompano Beach, Treasure Island
Mississippi: Biloxi
Nevada: Las Vegas, Reno
New Jersey: Camden
South Carolina: Broadway at the Beach

Other cities that have banned horse-drawn carriages include Toronto, Canada; Beijing, China; Paris, France; and London and Oxford, England.

Action You Can Take
The presence of horse-drawn carriages in New York City sends a disturbing message that other animals are mere objects of entertainment for tourists. The positive response we’ve received from the public during our outreach efforts proves that not only is New York City ready to abolish this exploitative industry—it’s long past due.

1. Boycott the Carriage Horse Industry. Educate friends and family to the reality of this industry.

2. Contact NYC Mayor Bloomberg at or call 311 and leave a message of strong support for the effort to end New York’s horse-drawn carriage industry.

3. New Yorkers should contact their City Council member at: and ask them to support legislation that will end the horse-drawn carriage industry.

4. If you use the Internet, visit to find out about the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, and to get involved.

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