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ASPCA Supports Proposed New Bill to Ban Carriage Horses from New York City

Bill to be introduced at City Council Meeting Tuesday, December 11
December 8, 2007

NEW YORK, December 8, 2007—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) today announced it will support Councilman Tony Avella’s proposed bill to ban carriage horses from New York City streets. The bill is scheduled to be introduced at a meeting of the city council next Tuesday, December 11.

“As the primary enforcer of New York City’s carriage horse laws, the ASPCA can no longer accept the status quo,” said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. “Increased accidents, the recent death of a carriage horse and the city comptroller’s report all underscore the urgency to get these horses off the streets.”

For years, many of the carriage horses have been subject to working in bad conditions, and the laws protecting these animals are not always enforced. “The urban environment and pollution compromise their health, and this outdated industry is not vital to the operations of New York City,” added Mr. Sayres.

The ASPCA’s position is further reinforced with the introduction of two bills by Councilman James Gennaro, that clearly demonstrate government support for the carriage horse industry. Intro. 652 would double the rates drivers can charge consumers, making the industry more lucrative, and Intro. 653 would remove the authority of the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs, the police, and agents of the ASPCA to inspect the horses and the stables. Instead, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would contract with a non-governmental third party to perform this function.

“If Councilman Gennaro’s bills are passed, they will remove oversight of this industry by law enforcement agents, including the ASPCA’s officers, who have expertise in equine care and a commitment to the welfare of animals. What’s more, there will be nothing that precludes this industry from self-regulating through the proposed third-party arrangement—which is anything but appropriate,” said Sayres. “As the Comptroller’s recent audit clearly pointed out, this industry needs more effective enforcement, not less.”

In September, New York City Comptroller William Thompson released an Audit Report on the Licensing and Oversight of the Carriage Horse Industry by the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and Consumer Affairs (DCA). The report pointed out the lack of required number of inspections of horse-drawn carriages, an absence of veterinary examinations in the field, the presence of too many passengers in carriages and the lack of designated formal hack stands that result in horses often standing in their own waste without shade or water. Further, an amendment to the New York City Administrative Code to create an advisory board in 1982 only recently convened, and is comprised primarily of industry representatives and supporters.

“Many of the criticisms outlined in the report were things that the ASPCA has attempted to address over many years in both proposed legislation before the New York City Council and by trying to work collaboratively with both agencies,” said Sayres.

The ASPCA supported Mr. Avella’s previous bill to limit the horses to Central Park, which would have reduced their exposure to traffic and other hazards and make them easier to monitor. However, this bill did not gather any significant momentum and at best, that was a compromise.

Also in September 2007, the ASPCA investigated the death of a carriage horse that died after being startled by a loud drumming noise, then bolted and collided into a tree on the southern edge of Central Park. Another horse, apparently spooked by the drumming noise, ran into the street, and the buggy it was pulling crashed into a car. That horse was not injured. 

Although the DOHMH and DCA are currently tasked with regulating the industry, as well as licensing drivers and enforcing carriage horse regulations to govern the horses’ care, and the New York City Police Department is authorized to enforce the laws governing carriage horses and animal cruelty laws, the ASPCA has long overseen the treatment of the carriage horses on a voluntary basis, despite limited resources.

“We’re now in our second century of voluntarily overseeing the horses, but the public should understand that the primary responsibility for this function does not, in fact, rest with us,” said Sayres.

Since its founding in 1866, the ASPCA has worked to protect and aid horses, as well as other animals, and continues that work today by enforcing carriage horse and animal cruelty laws in New York City as part of its extensive local services. Its agents currently monitor horses and their drivers while out in the field, in addition to a providing a dedicated agent to all matters relating to their care.

The ASPCA is not opposed to the use of horses and other equines in pulling carts and carriages for hire, provided that animals' physiological and behavioral needs are fully met, housing and stable conditions are humane, and their working hours and conditions--such as temperature, humidity, proximity to traffic and rest periods--are carefully regulated.

“Unfortunately, neither the New York City environment nor the current law can provide horses with these fundamental necessities to ensure their safety and well being,” Sayres said, “and we need to do something about it.”