January 22, 2016

Speaking Up for Carriage Horses in New York City

Since its founding in 1866, the ASPCA has worked to protect and aid horses. This legacy of responsibility is one that the ASPCA continues to prioritize, and one that extends to the plight of horses working in an urban environment. Today, Michelle Villagomez, NYC Legislative Director for the ASPCA, testified in support of Intro 573-A during a public hearing in front of the New York City Council Committee on Transportation. Below are excerpts of her testimony that encapsulate the organization’s position on this issue.

“Like many other animal welfare organizations, the ASPCA has supported legislation and regulatory changes in the past to improve carriage horses’ living and working conditions, ban carriage horse operations or restrict operations to Central Park. 

Currently, however, neither their working environment nor the current law can provide horses with the fundamental necessities to ensure their safety and well-being. There are many unique distractions for horses on New York City’s streets which create an unnatural, unnecessary and undeniable strain on the horses’ quality of life. Under the existing system, carriage horses must travel through crowded city streets, breathing in fumes from buses, trucks, and cars; they must navigate potholes, open manholes, traffic and impatient drivers; they are wary and fearful of noise from construction sites, car horns and the sheer volume of city life in general. These situations create a dangerous working environment, and are even highlighted in the official training manual for carriage operators as factors that alarm horses.

Intro. 573-A will provide a number of meaningful improvements to carriage horse welfare in New York City, led by greatly reducing the total number of licensed horses to 95, while limiting the number of working horses to 75. The bill will also restrict operations to Central Park, requiring the construction of new stables in Park proper with a mandatory stall size of at least 100 square feet—a significant increase over the 60 square feet required in current stables. We are also encouraged by the measure’s improved restrictions on time and areas of operation, and its humane disposition and furlough requirements for the horses. The measure also reflects a strong intent to offset financial repercussions with workforce training programs and resources available not only to drivers, but to owners, license holders, and horse stable employees. Taken together, these amendments to existing law are a strong step forward on this long-standing issue, and the ASPCA supports these efforts to remove horses from many of the perils inherent in working in the harsh New York City environment.

The importance of the humane disposition requirements proposed in this bill cannot be overstated, and our public commitment to help re-home horses in need bears repeating here. Should any carriage horse operator require assistance in finding new homes for their horses, the ASPCA will gladly assist, tapping into our national network of rescue partners to help find and facilitate humane placement options for any horse in need of a home.”