Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No life for a horse

A New York City carriage horse's long days and nights are likely to be miserable, from the commute in heavy traffic to food that leaves something to be desired. And then, it's back to the multistory stables.
Video courtesy of YouTube member "DriversRunninScared."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recent perspectives on ancient history

Horses deserve better; public safety is at risk
Thoughtful letter-writers have elucidated the rationale for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. J. Hoffner (Grasmere) wrote in the Staten Island Advance that she has counted at least 22 serious carriage accidents between 1998 and 2008, including 5 horse deaths and 19 human injuries, and asks: "How many are required to count as enough?" Read her letter and others, in response to the Nov. 30 opinion piece "Setting the Record Straight on Horse-Drawn Carriages" by "Blinders" filmmaker Donny Moss.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas

no break for the horses
Another busy week for carriage horses, who in New York City were getting a lot of attention after a video from filmmaker Donny Moss showed them trotting on icy streets during a snowstorm, getting soaked by sleet, and eating wet food, while the ASPCA did little but wring its hands. If you haven't already done so, watch the video--it's a real eye-opener.

Also causing a stir are two videos from "HorsesinNYC": one showing a driver gone wild and the other documenting tourists being overcharged. All of these were much talked about. The kind souls on Care2 circulated the storm story widely, the Central Park Blogger commented on the cruelty of this outdated industry, and described the ASPCA as "woefully out of touch." Gothamist weighed in on the story and so did the Pony Tales blog. Meanwhile, two carriage crashes in South Carolina have sparked outrage (people were injured, but the cub reporter didn't see fit to tell us the fate of the horses). In Michigan, a 15-year-old boy was at the reins of a carriage that was struck by a car, a crash that injured the horse so badly it had to be euthanized.
Photo credit: Donny Moss

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let the tourists beware

Holiday cheer? What a ripoff!
Tourists in New York City are always at the mercy of the con artists. Take a look at some bad business practices on the part of carriage horse drivers, brought to us by YouTube user "HorsesinNYC." This shows disgraceful and disrespectful behavior. And at least one driver has anger management issues.

Also view "Driver Gone Wild," from YouTube member "HorsesinNYC" and "On the ASPCA's watch," from "Blinders" filmmaker Donny Moss

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Learn more

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Driver gone wild

Thinking of taking a ride in a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park? Get a reality check before you hop in a carriage with this maniac. Pity the poor horses.

Video by YouTube member "HorsesinNYC"

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the ASPCA's watch...

The horses were working today during a snowstorm, illegally. This despite the ASPCA's early assurances that the horses had been sent back to the stables. Filmmaker Donny Moss ("Blinders") braved the storm to document the horrific conditions in which the horses were working. At his own risk, as you will see.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chicago is failing its horses

New York City isn't the only large U.S. city that is miserable for horses. NBC 5 Chicago sheds some light on J.C. Cutters, a carriage company that since 2006 has received more than 20 citations by Chicago Animal Care & Control. To date, few if any improvements are apparent, and a recent visit by NBC 5 revealed horses eating hay next to manure. A former driver is seen saying in this video clip that the drivers referred to the stable as "the horse dungeon." See why.
Activists in Chicago took part in last weekend's "Horses Without Carriages International" day of action, braving bitter cold to tell people not to take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. This tradition is outdated, irrelevant, and inhumane.
Update: The city has said this week that it won't renew the license for J.C. Cutters in 2009.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Horses Without Carriages International

A global initiative helping horses
From Ireland to Israel, Chicago (right) to Boston, activists came out for an international day of action last weekend. Dublin (below) was all about educational outreach, and well-received! Chicago activists were not stopped by the freezing cold--they spoke with many passersby about the conditions under which those poor horses toil. More reports to follow from these groups that are being voices for the horses, who can't speak for themselves. A great day of activism!
Dublin, Ireland

Friday, December 12, 2008

From near and far, people are talking

About horses, that is
A peaceful vigil at Central Park on December 6 (photo) makes people stop and think about the plight of the horses...
and activists brave the cold to speak up for the horses in Boston...Ingrid Newkirk has a heart for New York's carriage horses...and Ecorazzi blogs up the spicy ad campaign that asks tourists to just say no. Legal troubles for a horse-drawn carriage operator in Galveston, Texas, following an accident last summer. The lives of New York City's carriage horses strike a chord with an equine rescue group in northern's a blogger that aims to set the record straight about the deadly tradition of NYC's horse-drawn carriages. Still a few more days to see "Fox Trot," the Kevin Hellmuth photo exhibition that celebrates horses (exhibit runs through December 17th). Finally, check out screenings of "Blinders," or pick up a DVD for the horse person in your life (or to hold your own neighborhood screening!)

"Foxtrot" is being exhibited at the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (corner of 59th street and Columbus Avenue), 1 block west of Columbus Circle.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And a great demo in Boston

How many horses have to die?
Activists have united worldwide in a global coalition to ban horse-drawn carriages. A good crowd braved the cold in Boston on Saturday, December 6, during a peaceful demonstration to publicize the plight of the horses. We're told that during the 90-minute demonstration, people were not taking carriage rides! Read more in The Boston Globe, online edition.
Comment moderation got to be too much for, apparently. Seems this was a great demo! One of many that commemorated "Horses Without Carriages International."
Photo credit: Essdras M. Suarez/Globe staff

Saturday, December 6, 2008

No walk in the park

No walk in the park
Originally uploaded by mac6036
Images from Manhattan on a day of global action: "Horses Without Carriages International." The initiative brought people out in various cities to publicize the plight of the carriage horses, advocate for bans, and engage in educational outreach. A very successful and invigorating event at Central Park! Council Member and mayoral candidate Tony Avella, who introduced a bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, spoke briefly and passionately about this blight on the city. Many people shared their support for a ban and wanted to get involved with ongoing work to get the word out. A high-impact message for people to "Pity the Poor Horses" and work for a ban.
Click on the photo to see more images

Monday, December 1, 2008

And another tragic death

Tourists watched in horror as Birillo suffered
A beautiful horse named Birillo died recently in Rome, after spooking and losing his footing when a truck sped close to him near the Colosseum, perhaps even grazing him. A crowd of tourists watched in horror as Birillo suffered and had to be put down. Those sad images brought to mind the painful memory of Smoothie,the New York City carriage horse who died in September 2007 after spooking.
Larger photo: Birillo, 2008, Rome. Inset: Smoothie, 2007, NYC.

Even as Birillo lay dying a few days ago, a global movement was gaining strength--an international coalition that seeks to ban horse-drawn carriages. On Saturday, December 6, activists in cities around will world will mark "Horses Without Carriages International" day, a united effort to bring this issue to the forefront in cities around the world. Anti-carriage activists in Rome, New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charleston, S.C., Annapolis, Md., Dublin, Florence, Tel Aviv, and Victoria, Canada are planning peaceful demonstrations to make it known that putting horse-drawn carriages in the midst of city traffic is irrelevant, cruel, unnecessary, and simply wrong.
Take action wherever you are on December 6, 2008, and all throughout the coming year, to unite with others who want to put an end to horse-drawn carriages in cities. Learn more about Horses Without Carriages International and the NYC day of action, sponsored by the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.
More information to come...

Another unnecessary accident

This one in Argenta, Ark., where a transit bus rear-ended a horse-drawn carriage, injuring 6 people. Four children and two adults, including the carriage driver, were taken to hospitals after Friday's collision. The carriage driver and a 7-year-old girl were still hospitalized on Saturday, though none of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening. The horse, a 1,900-pound gentle giant named Ben, was said to be OK. More on the accident
Horses and traffic--a ridiculous and often deadly mix that puts horses directly in harm's way and threatens the public safety. Peruse some carriage horse accidents in NYC, and it becomes very clear that a spooked horse is dangerous to himself, to pedestrians, to bikers, and to motorists.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A recipe for spooking a horse

It's always horrifying, and never surprising, when a horse spooks in traffic or around a noisy spectacle. Which is what happened Friday in Rhinelander, Wis., during a downtown Christmas tree-lighting event. The moment everyone was waiting for, in fact, is what apparently frightened the horses, who were still harnessed to a carriage. One man was trampled, and one vehicle damaged. Read more
If you've ever wondered if New York City carriage horses spook, the answer is yes--and when it happens, the consequences are generally horrifying, as with the death of Smoothie in September 2007.

The next time you see a horse in Times Square, or on 9th Avenue, or being made to make a U-turn on Central Park South, consider whether that is an appropriate environment for a horse. Learn more about the lives and inelegant deaths of New York City carriage horses

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big-city politics: too puzzling!

How is this going to help the horses?
Here’s something to ponder. In the grand tradition of big city politics, the League of Humane Voters of New York City is honoring City Council member Peter Vallone, Jr. Puzzling, isn’t it? Humane isn’t the word that comes to mind. Vallone wants to ban pit bull dogs in New York City. He has never supported the Pets in Housing bill, a measure that is dear to New Yorkers and that would save the lives of many companion animals. He does not support Council Member Tony Avella’s bill that would ban the inhumane horse-drawn carriage industry in NYC. He voted for an extension of term limits (apparently he wants to ensure that we’ll have four more years of the same seamy, do-nothing council). Speaker Christine Quinn, as you may recall, has blocked every single piece of animal-friendly legislation that has come up. And I’m really scratching my head over the exclusion of Avella from the list of honorees. Humane DOES come mind when I think of Avella, who leads the way in supporting humane legislation—and who is enthusiastically endorsed by the League of Humane Voters of New York State (the real LOHV).
The LOHV-NYC also helped to elect Elizabeth Crowley, a vigorous opponent of a ban on horse-drawn carriages. (Maybe some whippersnapper can explain this to me?) With friends like this, who needs enemies! Crowley has ties to a number of proud political "players," as you may know.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The mustang's last stand? (off-topic)

Tell the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to end its plan to kill wild horses, including Cloud's herd in the Arrowhead Mountains of Montana. A meeting of the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting is planned for November 17, 2008, and comments are being accepted. The BLM has been trying to implement a misguided program of "managing to extinction," a plan devised as a consequence of its own fiscal mismanagement. Submit comments by Wednesday, November 12 to the Advisory Board care of Ramona DeLorme (
Learn more about this issue by visiting The Cloud Foundation

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Carriage horses have it made. Right?

The reality is very different from the fairy-tale portrayal seen in ads. Get a feel for how wretched the long days are for New York City carriage horses. Hint: they don't live in the park.

Video courtesy of YouTube member "HorsesinNYC"; added October 2008

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City, a position that is supported by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Friends of Animals and numerous other organizations seeking a ban.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The heart of the matter

Funny that anyone would think that New York City activists seeking a ban on horse-drawn carriages would just, well, quit. (Like the way Bloomberg thinks we will forget his despicable end run). Hilarious! Good and decent people from all walks of life are thoroughly disgusted by the sight of horses pulling carriages in New York City traffic. Join some compassionate people for a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, Nov. 1. It's an opportunity for outreach, education, and reflection on the plight of the horses--who don't belong in traffic. Photo credit: Susan Brandt
Chessbuff blogs on the spirit of activism: alive and well
Demo details: Saturday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m., Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue
Sponsored by: New York City Animal Rights Meetup

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day in, day out: horses in traffic

We heard from a Philadelphia carriage horse. Take a look at NYC horses at work in this video from June 2008. What must they be thinking! Check out the 18-wheeler at 2:33, right alongside a horse. It's easy to understand why the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are among the vast network of organizations that support local efforts for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. This work is unsafe and inhumane. Horses don't belong in traffic.
Video courtesy of YouTube member "HorsesinNYC"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

From the horse's mouth

A Philadelphia carriage horse tells us, in no uncertain terms, what it's like to walk in his shoes. "The world has moved on," he explains. "But not for everyone, apparently." Read his post on "The Philadelphia Turkey" blog.

Friday, October 24, 2008

No horse is unspookable

No shortage of news lately about horses spooking. Too many to recount, but here are a few. In Portsmouth, R.I., horses spooked and the carriage overturned, injuring 4 people. A carriage driver in Charleston, S.C., was injured after a carriage horse spooked and ran between two parked cars, throwing the driver from the seat. And a debacle last week in the UK, when a horse-drawn carriage carrying a coffin overturned after two horses spooked and bolted before crashing into cars. Three people were injured, including the horseman and his son. In Pennsylvania, a buggy driver was killed in a non-spooking accident when a pickup truck struck the buggy from behind. And some visitors to New York City blogged recently about the "craziest" part of their trip, when the horse-drawn carriage in which they were riding was rear-ended by an SUV. What are the chances? Well, quite high, since the horses travel up to 4 miles daily in heavy traffic to and from their stables, the southernmost of which is on 37th Street.
Photo: Aftermath of the funeral procession that came to a shuddering halt in Ipswich, England after 2 horses spooked.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Democracy: rest in peace

Democracy came to an end in New York City today, with the "Quinn 29" voting without a referendum to extend term limits. And New York City Council member Tony Avella got it right: the 29 members who voted--against the will of the city's voters--to extend term limits for New York City elected officials to three terms from two should be voted out of office. I will make my list, and then vigorously campaign against all of these unethical twits. My little vote can only go so far, so I will have to be creative, won't I! I think I may make that deadbeat Robert Jackson my pet project, for having the unmitigated gall to say: “Let’s have a backbone" (and not back down, presumably). He deserves a job stamping out license plates. No wonder he's hanging onto this one for dear life.

Thank you to the 22 council members who voted "no" to this subversive measure, including Jessica Lappin. Well done.

The billionaire mayor thinks we will forget all about it. Never will I forget this betrayal. And another thing: it stands to cost the city in so many ways. Starting with lifetime retiree health insurance that would cost the city up to $12,600 a year per council member, for any one who serves a third term. Which will amount to millions of dollars over the coming decades. Kind of stupid, isn't it?

Did you know: Tony Avella (D-Queens) introduced the measure to ban horse-drawn carriages; Council Speaker Christine Quinn has blocked it, along with every other piece of animal-friendly legislation that been introduced during her shameful tenure; virtually all council members line up behind Quinn, fearing retribution. No, the City Council is not a legislative body. Far from it. All back-room deals.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Those eyes

"The horse pulling the carriage had really sad eyes," the young woman wrote in her blog post. "I just wanted to rescue him and set him free in some huge field."

Sounds as if she is regretting the ride she took, an uneasy realization that is reached by many tourists. Most every weekend, I speak with people who either avoid a carriage ride altogether--or pledge not to ever take another one. There are plenty of wholesome things to do in NYC.

Support a ban on New York City's horse-drawn carriage industry, a stance that is unanimously supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, and dozens of other animal welfare organizations. New York City residents should contact their City Council representatives and ask them to support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. Non-New York City residents should contact the mayor (212-NEW-YORK) and make known their support of a ban on this inherently inhumane industry.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Does she, or doesn't she?

Does Princess Christine Quinn support extending term limits? The Central Park Blogger has rounded up the usual suspects and revealed the ending to this suspenseful saga.
Next: Is Gale Brewer is obsessed with bed bugs? Stay tuned.

Oops! Quinn is not a princess, but the speaker of the City Council! My bad! She is notorious for blocking every single piece of animal-friendly legislation that has been introduced, including the pets-in-housing bill and Intro. 658, which would ban horse-drawn carriages. Seriously!

Embarrassingly off-base

The "sliming" tactics of the New York City carriage industry and the handful of individuals who support this inherently cruel industry are mind-boggling. It takes chutzpah to criticize one of the world's leading authorities on the humane treatment of carriage horses while promoting the under-handed "oversight" of a very biased veterinarian who has essentially been a lobbyist for the industry. Holly Cheever, DVM, eloquently answers her critics, including one Upper East Sider who venomously characterizied anti-carriage activists as "Machiavellian" and hurled insults at Dr. Cheever. The pinnacle of absurdity.
The Machiavellian line was hilarious -- I laughed out loud! But seriously, the insulting letter was so bad that I was embarrassed for its writer. Like that cringe that comes from listening to Sarah Palin.
The ever level-headed Dr. Cheever has previously described New York's carriage horse industry as the worst she has ever seen--and never humane. Read her comments as published in a February 2008 letter letter to Metro.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sign up for the Coalition fundraiser!

Have you signed up yet for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages fund-raising party? I finally did! (What a deal -- $30 in advance, $40 at the door). And I got around to checking the silent auction items. I know what I'm bidding on ... a vegan organic chocolate gift basket! Helping the horses and getting vegan chocolate--does it get any better than that? I don't think so. And the entertainment is stellar. Mantra 986 may be my new favorite restaurant. I'll see you there, on Tuesday, October 14, at Mantra (986 Second Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets, in midtown Manhattan). If you're bidding on the vegan chocolate, be forewarned: I'll race you to the "Buy It Now" bid! Stand back, I'm a chocolate fiend!
Special guests will include City Council Member Tony Avella, Donny Moss, Joy Askew, Nellie McKay, comics Liam McEneaney and Ann Design, and our emcee, Fiona Walsh. Very cool!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Put this on your "To Do" list!

Get your tickets for the fundraiser! Space is limited, but you need to be there on October 14, 2008, because the proceeds benefit the ongoing work of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. Some special guests will be attending, including City Council Member Tony Avella and documentary-maker Donny Moss. There's a fantastic entertainment lineup: Fiona Walsh, Joy Askew, Nellie McKay, Ann Design, and Liam McEneaney.

If you are involved in efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages, you must make this the event to attend! Clear your calendar for October 14, and head over to the fundraiser at Mantra 986 on Second Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets, 6-10 pm (arrive on time and take part in the silent auction!) An evening of great entertainment, food, and fun--and it's for a great cause. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door.

Get your tickets early, through PayPal (via the Coalition website). If you prefer to pay by check, make it payable to the Coalition for NYC Animals, Inc. The mailing address is: PO Box 20247, Park West Station, New York, NY 10025.

Check out the Silent Auction catalog ...
About Mantra 986
Seriously, cancel those other plans! You know you want to attend this party!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Photography is risky

Really bad behavior on the part of some in the New York City carriage industry is nothing new. But you probably already know that, if you've seen videos like this one. [Warning: It's vile. Adults only, please.]

One commenter from the industry is whining on YouTube that the owner didn't know this fellow was a loose cannon, that this is an aberration, etc. However, we see quite a bit of bad behavior on the hack line on a daily basis.
Video from a YouTube member

Friday, September 19, 2008

Staying on topic

Irrelevant industry, crude tactics, suffering horses
More proof that the industry is irrelevant, ridiculous, and circumvents the law came this week, when threatening phone calls allegedly were made to a pub that was to have been the setting for a fund-raiser in support of a ban. The intimidating calls, of course, which were described to a member of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by a pub manager, are believed to be from someone in the carriage industry. The pub pulled the plug on the venue, the manager saying he feared for the safety of his employees. Drivers are already dismissing the entire incident as a lie. However, the pub manager reiterated his account (he himself used the word "riot") to a second coalition member, and also to Councilman Tony Avella, in phone calls.

Lest you think this is a first, consider that a well-known NYC business that has been running ads in support of an industry ban received intimidating phone calls before the campaign started--and the caller did identify himself. This was heard by a number of people.

Avella, a mayoral candidate and the sponsor of a measure to ban the industry (with the idea of providing a reasonable alternative), denounced this week's thug tactics at a hastily arranged news conference on Friday.

The idea that some scary phone calls would derail efforts to ban the industry is laughable and pathetic at the same time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Watch NYC horses going to work

Do horses live in Central Park? Nah. Watch the video "Horse Carriage," which shows a glimpse of their daily commutes and their "workspaces" outside of the park.
Video courtesy of "HorsesinNYC"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

From Manhattan's wild west

On the night shift
Here we see a carriage driver leading a horse eastbound on busy 45th Street, which runs westbound. They managed to maneuver through the evening rush-hour traffic and get to 10th Avenue for the treacherous commute to Central Park. In rush-hour traffic.
Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City, a measure that is endorsed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Ask your City Council member to support the ban (Intro. 658).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

What's the deal with the AP?

Instead of a story, we got a joke about a wedding gone wrong
Why run a 50-word news brief on the Brooklyn carriage accident? To make light of it, of course, as The Associated Press did in its pickup of the accident. We now know, thanks to other news outlets, that the horses involved were 2,000-pound Percherons, which is good news and bad. Their sheer size may be one reason that they survived the crash into the livery cab with only cuts to the legs. A 2,000-pound spooked horse, however, poses real danger to people who may be in his path. The carriage driver, who helped "steer" the out-of-control horses to a crash landing, suffered multiple broken ribs.

As Dave Barry pointed out years ago, AP staffers mostly sit at the desk and read newspapers. Too bad, because there's a story and a half here, and it remains to be told. The blistering but largely ignored 2007 audit of the carriage horse industry; the conflict of interest with Linda Gibbs (DOH) and her carriage industry lobbyist husband Thomas McMahon; the dirty dealings of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who blocks the legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC (a measure that is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States); the national tragedy of horse slaughter, and on and on.

The silliness that is the AP. Did you hear the one the Jonas Salk obituary, which had a GenDesk editor ranting and raving about receiving "an 800-word obituary on some dead guy that no one's ever heard of!" Or the editor who bellowed, "Does anyone speak Spanish?" upon receiving a story that referred to the legal term "nolo contendre." No surprise that news gets by these guys. And now the AP is terrrorizing bloggers! Please!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yet another carriage accident

The predictable result of putting horses in traffic
Two horses spooked in Brooklyn on Sunday, causing a wedding carriage to crash and injuring several people. The impact threw the carriage driver onto the windshield of a livery cab, police said. Another man was taken to a hospital, said a fire department spokesman. The carriage was awaiting its passengers when the horses spooked and ran down a busy avenue; the carriage ultimately crashed into a light pole. Police said the reins broke as the driver tried to steer the horses. One of the horses was treated for cuts on the leg.

There are conflicting early accounts of what caused the horses to spook. Regardless of the cause, it is not at all uncommon for these high-strung flight animals to spook and run, often with disastrous consequences to themselves and others. A 1200-pound animal is dangerous when frightened.

Photo credits: Maisel/Daily News
The carriage was licensed to Valentine Carriage. Hey Bridezillas, get real and take a limo! Animal cruelty is not entertainment. Tragedy was averted this time, but this latest accident reinforces that horse-drawn carriages are irrelevant, outdated, and have no place in 21st-century New York City. They endanger the public safety as well as the animals. The ASPCA supports a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
Read a colorful account on Gothamist
More photos on

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where do the horses live?

Getting real about living conditions
Tourists often ask where the horses live and are surprised to learn that the horses aren't housed in Central Park. Nope. Try W. 38th Street, over by 11th Avenue. Two miles from the park--20 blocks in frightful traffic.

Horses need high-quality sleep, and they need to stretch out. Here you see a New York City carriage horse who cannot lie down comfortably. This is typical of the living conditions for these horses: dirty, disgusting, and accessible only by way of a steep ramp.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Civil liberties

Horses like to roll around in the dirt to scratch their itches. That is, if they have the opportunity. That small liberty is not afforded to New York City carriage horses. For them, it's all work and no play. No respite at home, either. They're warehoused on the industrial west side of Manhattan, up to 2 miles from Central Park.
Pictured: West Side Livery. See why the nabe is called "Hell's Kitchen?"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Treats in Hell's Kitchen

For the drivers, that is
Ever find yourself on 10th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen, around 9 a.m., or 6 p.m.? These are rush hours, for motorists as well as carriage drivers from West Side Livery and Central Park Carriages. It's surely a good thing that a Dunkin' Donuts has opened on this noisy speedway, between 43rd and 44th Streets. The treat shop is a little farther down from the bus lane. This offers a bit of reassurance, because drivers have been spotted stopping for a snack in the deli just below the bus stop, leaving the carriage right on the avenue and trusting that the horse doesn't get spooked, or worse. Here you see "Rip Van Winkle" getting ready to pull over to the tried-and-true deli, and grab some smokes!
Bonus: Dunkin' sells soy lattes! Some of the drivers love that soy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Avella: the quality of life candidate

Tony Avella works tirelessly to make the city a better place. He did a tremendous amount of good by stopping by an outreach event Saturday on the issue on New York City carriage horses. Avella, a Queens City Council member who is running for mayor, told an enthusiastic crowd that gathered near Central Park what is wrong with the industry--and the long and short of it is that the industry is outdated and inherently inhumane. Time for a ban!

The outreach is a regular event that has drawn ongoing support for Avella's landmark legislation that would ban the industry. Thousands of New York City residents and tourists have signed a petition asking lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill and support a ban.

Avella has an outstanding record of support for animal-friendly legislation, including the pets-in-housing bill. He is strongly committed to reducing taxes for all New Yorkers, halting overdevelopment that is putting neighborhoods at risk, and reforming the Department of Education. He made headlines recently by promoting a "three-strike" policy for truck drivers who violate the city's truck route rules, a problem that he wisely has identified as potentially dangerous quality-of-life issue.
The carriage bill introduced by Avella, Intro. 658, calls for a full ban and is supported by the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, and numerous other leading U.S. and global animal protection organizations.

Learn more about where Tony Avella stands on the issues affecting New Yorkers. Visit

Photo credit: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages/friend of horses

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bad days for horses

Horses are in the news this summer, and it usually isn't good news
Take a look at undercover video from "Exposed Truths" that reveals horrific conditions at the stables of J.C. Cutters, which bills itself as Chicago's "premiere carriage company."

Consider the story of Heavenly Perfect, a 5-year-old mare who was raced to death.

The horrors of the slaughterhouse have struck a nerve with people. A Boston racetrack has enacted a zero-tolerance slaughter policy. [; free registration is required]
Now it should take a cold hard look at the common practice of running horses to death.

It's been a deadly spring and summer for horses that pull buggies in rural or less heavily traveled areas, with accidents in Nappanee, and Goshen, Ind.; Lawrenceberg, TN; Lancaster and Meadville, PA.; Mercer County, Ohio; and Alamosa, Colo., to name a few. Human lives were lost in a number of these crashes, at least one of which is a consequence of a drunken motorist who plowed into the buggy.

Conditions cannot be made safe or humane for New York City carriage horses, who travel miles in noisy, heavy traffic. Support a full ban, which is advocated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Friends of Animals, and the Humane Society of the United States, among a host of others. Let your City Council member hear from you. If you are not a New York City resident, contact the mayor's office and voice your concern for the horses.

Heavenly Perfect, raced to death

It's only three months since Heavenly Perfect was racing her heart out. Her best efforts weren't enough, though. She'd been raced with laminitis, and, left untreated, it had progressed soon enough to the place where bone was coming through the soles of both front feet. Her other injuries were not insignificant: chipped knees, 2 fractures, and severe arthritis. She hadn't run well in her last race, to no one's surprise. So, trainer and owner Jerry Hollendorfer shipped her off. Destined for a Mexican slaughterhouse, she got a reprieve by rescuers who pulled her out of a kill pen 10 days after she'd run her last race.

At the track this brave 5-year-old had been little more than a number (G24671) and a would-be money machine, but her rescuers called her Melody. A caring vet who examined her pronounced her injuries too severe to overcome, and Melody was compassionately euthanized on July 8. Her final days brought her some comfort and, ultimately, a death with dignity rather than an agonizing and horrific stabbing death in a Mexican slaughterhouse. This fate befells so many horses after they are discarded like garbage.
Lean more about Pure Thoughts, Inc., and The Triumph Project, through whose combined efforts Melody was rescued.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Treats, and terror

Bourbon didn't like being a Philadelphia carriage horse...
His driver was none too thrilled about the job, either. She writes in The Washington Post about the claustrophobia of being in traffic, the searing heat, the people yelling at them. Bourbon worked in a world of things he feared: jackhammers, skateboarders, and Dumpsters, to name a few. He was a stressed-out eater and often succeeded in getting people to turn over to him the treats they were munching on.

And just like that, his days as a Philadelphia carriage horse were over. One winter, he was sold by Adele's boss to a carriage company in Minneapolis. She says they both loved Bourbon, and the thinking was that he would find a place that was more enjoyable.

His driver, Adele Levine, wrote fondly of her days working with Bourbon, even though she says they both hated the job. I guess they were both desperate. She, however, surely had more options that being bought and sold like an old car. We can only hope that Bourbon enjoyed a new life somewhere, but we are not so optimistic.

In an industry that is too cheap to euthanize the horses when they deemed unable to do the job, horses often come to a terrible end.

Read: "The City Was His Feedbag" (Aug. 15, 2008)
Photo credit: George Widman, The Associated Press

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More mush from the wimp

Mayor Bloomberg, that is
The wimp is patting himself on the back for championing a new online system that allows dog owners to license their pets online. "Licensing is not just a good idea--it's actually the law," the mayor explained. The display is maddening, in view of the fact that Mayor Bloomberg couldn't give a damn about animals and he sure doesn't mind it that the horse-drawn carriage industry roundly ignores the laws pertaining to the welfare of the horses. What a guy.
Mayor McCheese allows Christine Quinn to corrupt the city council even beyond the its historic boundaries of awfulness, and he looks the other way when it comes to the politically entrenched, cash-only carriage industry that flatly disrespects the laws. Not to mention the virtues of decency and civility. It's been nearly a year since the audit detailed the any problems with the carriage industry. Does anyone have a progress report? Anything?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Once more, slowly

For the benefit of today's reporters and editors
Things are getting worse for the carriage horses of New York City, and a collective apathy among those in the news media isn't helping.

It's been nearly a year since city Comptroller William C. Thompson released an audit that detailed a litany of problems within the carriage industry and a series of tactical failures among the organizations that would regulate it.

Little has changed, and reform won't be likely, given the obvious conflict of interest that stands in the way. The woman whose fingerprints are all over this is Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs, whose department is responsible for oversight of the carriage industry. Ms. Gibbs has strong and numerous family ties to carriage industry lobbyists, a circumstance that represents an obvious conflict of interest. This is being investigated by the Conflict of Interest Board.

How long will the real story of New York City's carriage horses be ignored by the news media? Showbiz gossip reigns supreme, apparently. This is the era of Brangelina and Britney. Right? "All the news that's fit to print" has become "All the entertainment news that fits!" Reporters (journalists?) now apparently get away with merely editorializing and publishing news releases that have been provided by those paid to represent business interests. It's kind of embarrassing. Who needs a newspaper? I'll just read PR Newswire.
What Does the City Audit Say

Monday, July 28, 2008

Policing the industry

New York's finest must enforce the laws
New York Police Department officers have a mandate to enforce all laws, including those associated with the carriage horses. More often than not, however, NYPD officers choose not to enforce the laws around the welfare of the carriage horses.

When you see a horse in distress or suspect that a carriage driver is violating the law, make a complaint. Call the ASPCA at (212) 876-7700, extension 4450. It's helpful if you can provide the horse and the carriage identification numbers when making a complaint. Also, please notify the mayor's office at (212) 564-7757 about your concerns. There are a number of logistical challenges in this process, but authentic complaints will be investigated.

Be a voice for a horse. There aren't enough people looking after them.
Barbara, from Australia, spoke with me in June, near the hack line. She said: "The horses don't look healthy." Brandy and Steven, who moved to NYC from Paris, confirmed for us that horse-drawn carriages have long been banned in Paris--despite allegations to the contrary.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In defense of Rome's carriage horses

At least someone in Italy has the guts to escalate the issue of carriage horse mistreatment to a higher level. Read more

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

New York City's wild west

Can things get worse in Hell's Kitchen?
First, there's Shamrock Stables (pictured), and nearby are two other stables that have been in the news of late. None offers respite for overworked carriage horses.

A brave correspondent gave a hair-raising account of illegal, dangerous, and outrageous misconduct that she witnessed this week in the neighborhood. Not surprisingly, the route would indicate that this involved a carriage driver from one of two southernmost stables, either the awful West Side Livery or the dreadful Central Park Carriage Stables. (The latter, of course, is the stable owned by Cornelius Byrne, who was arrested in December on accusations of attempting to bribe an undercover officer to overlook alleged violations at his stable on West 37th Street).

The driver had traveled north on 11th Avenue, and then turned right on W. 45th Street. WHOA! That's a problem, because at this point the driver was traveling EAST on a WESTBOUND street, by way of the sidewalk!

It got worse. To get right at the busy intersection of 10th Avenue and 45th Street, the driver then decided to cut through the HESS fuel station, a block-long monstrosity of angry taxicab drivers, at-risk pigeons, jaywalking pedestrians, and automobile drivers who zigzag diagonally across the station to get from point A to point Q. Finally the driver pulled out onto 10th Avenue and went the correct way--with traffic--northbound on that dangerous journey to Central Park.
I COULDN'T DREAM THIS UP! Last year, a car knocked over a gas pump at that Hess Station! Thank God for shutoff valves. For the sake of humanity, please don't make horses go the wrong way on a way-way street and walk onto the speedway that is the Hell's Kitchen Hess station.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ten minutes in the life

On Sunday night, just before 8 p.m. on West Drive in Central Park, I watched three mischief-making children try to climb onto a moving carriage that had passengers. One child fell into the roadway, losing a shoe and only narrowly avoiding the carriage's wheels. This incident, while not the carriage driver's fault, is typical of the nonsense that goes on in the park, especially on a summer weekend. Keep in mind that the New York City carriage driver is not required to carry much in the way of insurance.

Not two minutes later, the driver of this carriage was seen letting a young child take the reins, with his supervision, near Tavern on the Green. That same child--a little girl of around 6 years old--had both hands on the reins when I saw this carriage around 61st Street, preparing to exit to Central Park South. The horse was moving at a brisk clip, a canter, and the kid was loving it. She knew nothing of the danger, of course.
Wrong, misguided, and illegal. Where is the ASPCA when you need it? The drivers have got eagle eyes. Maybe the rare sighting of an ASPCA humane law enforcement officer is what the drivers are always discussing so earnestly on the cell phone--another favorite pasttime of theirs. I guess it does get boring, counting cash and operating what the drivers view as an amusement park "ride." The carriage's license number started with a "10" and ended with "3." He knows he who is.
The horse shown in the photo is not the one that is described above. Rather, this horse is seen eating food off the streets of NYC. Let's hope some water was made available.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Noisy spectacles: what have we learned?

Noise near horses: "human error"
The sights and sounds of Central Park, particularly the southernmost section that is the carriage horses' primary workplace, lend it a carnival-like atmosphere. Indeed, Wollman Rink is transformed into an actual amusement park in the summertime.

A recent parade procession unfolded near the hack line, complete with floats, bells, drummers, and bullhorns herding parade-goers toward Fifth Avenue. It ended well, but conjured up memories of the accident last year that killed Smoothie. Spooked by the sound of drums, the mare bolted, collapsed and died.

Such a response to noise is tragic but predictable among these nervous animals. After Smoothie's death, the carriage industry said it would call for a ban on "overly loud" music in the area. “It’s a deep human error on their part to make that music around these horses," said Smoothie's owner, Cornelius Byrne, speaking from his heart as well as his head. But nothing changes--the noisy spectacles continue in the park and around the hack line.
The park was very crowded and had a circus atmosphere on Thursday evening, a muggy night that saw the horses out in full force. The Parks Department, among other entities that can issue summonses for failure to comply with regulations set forth for the carriage industry, is a virtual non-entity in enforcing these laws, generally speaking. As for the parade, an ASPCA officer who was asked if the horses should be out under these circumstances said there's nothing he could do.
Photo used courtesy of a friend of carriage horses; video provided by Donald Moss.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feeling the heat in Rome, Memphis

Exposed to a million dangers
When in Rome, take pity on the carriage horses. As in New York, these beasts of burden toil in searing heat and heavy traffic and live in shabby stables. Time for the Eternal City to move forward and ban this industry.
AP Photo/Courtesy of ENPA/HO

Anyone who needs a reminder of why it's a terrible idea to put horses in traffic should read about Tuesday's accident in downtown Memphis, where a truck rear-ended a horse-drawn carriage that was sitting on the side of the road. The carriage driver is recovering and, against all odds, the horse and a puppy that was a passenger on the carriage escaped serious injury in the crash.

Horses do not belong in any city's traffic. In New York City, we have an unprecedented opportunity to support legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriages (Intro. 658). Let your City Council member hear from you on this issue today!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Of log books and law judges

Problems of infrequent and substandard veterinary care were disclosed in the 2007 city audit of the carriage horse industry, and so was poor record-keeping. Here's a neat example of both.

In July 2007, a carriage driver escaped an inhumane treatment charge, but was fined $200, after a Department of Consumer Affairs inspector noticed an open wound on the withers (the area between the shoulder blades) of a working carriage horse, in violation of city rules that prohibit working a horse with an open wound. The driver helped his case, apparently, by testifying that he had discovered the wound in the stable after a day's work, and that he immediately dressed the wound and took the horse out of service. However, the driver's testimony could not be confirmed by his log book entries.

Based on testimony, an administrative law judge dismissed the inhumane treatment charge. But because the judge found that the driver had not consistently entered in his log book the times he had returned the horse to the stable, the driver was fined $200. [Violation # LL5047122]

The audit had plenty to say about the disturbingly bad record-keeping. Hmm. I wonder why they do that? The drivers--and the industry's public relations machine--keep saying that the industry is a pretty tight ship. What would be the advantage of keeping poor records of the horses' shifts and their physical ailments (including open wounds)? This from an industry that wants more self-regulation. Shameful.

And what about that driver I saw fairly galloping a horse July 4th on Central Park West? Mr. Carriage Driver (whose name I won't share here), you know it's illegal, don't you? It would be great if the ASPCA had more than a handful of humane law officers, and if the police would do their jobs and enforce the carriage industry laws, and if the Department of Health would do its job in minding this business. The latter surely won't happen, given that Linda Gibbs of the DOH is married to Thomas McMahon, whose lone associate in his firm is a carriage industry lobbyist. All of which is an embarrassing conflict of interest. It's junior high school politics. Except it's real life in my city.
Read: Political Entrenchment 101 (HorseWatchNYC)
See a recap of the audit of the industry and read the NYC Comptroller's News Release (2007)
Familiarize yourself with the laws pertaining to the industry and the horses' treatment

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Don't ask an officer to help a horse

The treatment of the horses in Central Park in summertime is an absolute disgrace, and few people give a damn about it. Suppose you are a compassionate person who wants to report mistreatment or abuse, at 11 p.m., or midnight, or even later. You would tell a police officer, wouldn't you? Sadly, most don't care and most don't know the laws pertaining to horse-drawn carriages.

Last night in Central Park, at 1 a.m., a horse's legs were buckling under, no doubt after a long shift or two in the heat with not enough water (lack of water was one of the problems disclosed in the city's audit of the industry in 2007). The police officers were told and did nothing, and even acted indignant. The night before, at the request of tourists, a driver whipped a horse to gallop. Did you know this is against the law? This was news to the individual who returned the call from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Animal protectors? Pardon me while I puke.
Is this provincial China or New York City? It's becoming difficult to tell the difference. Corrupt politicians, complacent police officers, and ignorant employees of an organization that has a mission to prevent cruelty. ASPCA founder Henry Bergh must be spinning in his grave. And cops here are known for their ignorance of law. I've seen them say it's illegal to feed pigeons, for example. NOT.
READ "A Day at the Hack Line" (2007)
DON'T just stand there, do something! Volunteer for the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
HOLIDAY weekends? Not for the horses. Learn more about Bud's accident (2007)
Note: THE ASPCA supports a full ban on horse-drawn carriages, and this can't come soon enough because the organization obviously is ill-equipped to do much about the plight of the horses.
UPDATE: The New York Police Department has a mandate to uphold all laws, including those pertaining to carriage horses. Officers generally choose to look the other way when they see violations in the horse-drawn carriage industry. Summonses can be issued also by the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene and the Parks Department, as well as the ASPCA.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

2 miles the hard way--on steamy pavement

Wait long enough for a break, and you may be able to catch a glimpse of carriages coming up 10th Avenue. The buses around the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Lincoln Tunnel are lined up like jetliners on the runway at LaGuardia. This is how the horses commute from the West Side Livery and Central Park Carriages stables in the west 30s. That's right, they have to go to 59th Street to get to work. This video shows the part of New York that most tourists do not see. But they should.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Life in the Big City

Non-New Yorkers may be under the illusion that carriage horses live inside Central Park, get daily turnout, and have a pretty good life. This really is an illusion. Take a look at the video "Horses in NYC Traffic" on YouTube, posted by "horsesinnyc." A real eye-opener.
You may be new to the carriage-horse issue, or perhaps you have experience with horses. In any event, you will see that it is inappropriate and inhumane for horse-drawn carriages to operate in New York City.
Support a full ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City
Learn more -- Visit the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Friday, June 20, 2008

How long will horses be mistreated?

Film documents gruesome accidents
There's a lot of buzz in New York City today about the Blinders screening last night. The Central Park Blogger comments on the ultimate irony: even Beijing has banned horse-drawn carriages, but New York City has stubbornly refused to do so. It does boggle the mind.
Read "Blinders Screened" (Central Park Blog post, June 20, 2008)
Blinders is the new documentary from independent filmmaker Donny Moss. View the trailer on the Blinders website

Photo credit: Charles Eckert (January 2, 2006)
Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC (Intro. 658)

Happy endings for the few

Some worn-out New York City carriage horses are fortunate enough to be rescued from the auctions in New Holland, Pa. After much physical and emotional rehabilitation, Lilly O'Reilly was one of these "happy ending" horses. Lilly has since passed away, but she was well cared-for since her rescue and adoption, and loved by many.
Photos courtesy of Cheryl Syriac, Central New England Equine Rescue
Lilly Rose O'Reilly was rescued before the last US slaughterhouse was shut down.
Read more of Lilly O'Reilly's story