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ASPCA Urges NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs to Support Intro 658-A, Oppose Intro. 653-A

Carriage Horse Ban & Limits to ASPCA Authority Addressed at Hearing
January 30, 2009

NEW YORK— In a hearing at City Hall today, the ASPCA is urging the New York City Council Committee on Consumer Affairs to support Intro. 658-A to ban carriage horse operations in New York City and oppose Intro. 653-A, which would eliminate the authority of agents of the ASPCA, along with the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), Consumer Affairs (DCA), and NYC Police Department, to inspect carriage horse stables.

“The ASPCA considers carriage horses to be a hold-over from another era, hidden beneath a façade of romance and nostalgia,” said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres.  “The reality of day-to-day life for carriage horses in urban, congested New York City is a far cry from this idyllic image.  Neither the New York City environment nor the current law can provide horses with the fundamental necessities to ensure their safety and well-being.”

Under current law, carriage horses are allowed to work for nine hours a day, seven days a week, traversing crowded city streets and breathing in fumes from buses, truck and cars. Potholes, open manholes, traffic, impatient drivers, construction sites and loud noise contribute to their perilous working environment.

Carriage horses are not legally entitled to a day of rest and can be made to work in temperatures as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 19 degrees, with no adjustments for humidity or wind chill.  The stables to which they return after a grueling workday do not provide adequate ventilation or emergency exits. Nor do they afford horses a paddock for turnout, the ability to graze or the freedom to roll and run.

According to Sayres, “Until there is a ban in place, this industry needs more effective enforcement, not less.  Without access to the stables, the ASPCA cannot monitor the conditions of the horses or their living environment, and we cannot ensure that failures to comply with the law are addressed.”

The ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Department currently enforces state and local animal protection laws including New York State animal cruelty law and carriage horse protection laws found in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and New York City Department of Consumer Affairs code and regulations.  During 2008, ASPCA agents conducted 54 official stable inspections, checking stalls for proper bedding, size and cleanliness, checking horses’ feed to ensure a proper amount was on hand and free of vermin and other contaminants, and evaluating lighting, ventilation and unsafe conditions. ASPCA agents also provided directives to correct identified deficiencies and followed up to ensure that they were corrected.

Intro. 653-A, which would eliminate stable inspections by city agencies and The ASPCA, does not  specify who would  assume responsibility for such  inspections, and makes no mention of who would fund them. 

“In addition to removing oversight of this industry by law enforcement and ASPCA agents who have expertise in equine care and a commitment to the welfare of animals, there is nothing precluding this industry from self-regulating through a third party arrangement,” said Sayres.  “There is no requirement that results of the inspections be reported to the DOHMH, DCA, or ASPCA. Our agents need to be able to inspect logbooks on stable premises in order to effectively enforce the daily working hours of the horses and verify the “trip cards” the drivers carry.”

“The legacy of responsibility to the plight of horses working in an urban environment is one the ASPCA continues to take extremely seriously to this day,” said Sayres.  “We will continue to work for change to improve the health, welfare and safety of these noble animals, and we stand ready to assist the Council in any way to make that happen.”