Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Wednesday. Take Action!

Ask your New York City Council representative to Support Intro. 658, sponsored by Tony Avella. And also to oppose industry bills Intro. 652 and Intro. 653.

Contact a New York City Council member
Contact Council Speaker, Christine C. Quinn

Monday, January 28, 2008

From the Department of Dangerous Delusion

“We’re just as important as the Empire State Building or the Plaza Hotel.”
--The ever quotable Ian McKeever of Shamrock Stables commenting on the importance of the carriage trade.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

For Carolyn...

No good deed goes unpunished. The effort to ban horse-drawn carriages on grounds that they are fundamentally inhumane is derided as the devil's work for idle hands. Never mind that this miserable industry endangers the animals as well as the public. The nose-to-tailpipe existence of the horses, the disastrous combination of mixing horses with traffic in the nation's most congested city, and the cumulative ill health effects of working horses in immoderate weather and conditions are well documented.

The good news is that efforts nationwide by humane activists to end the mistreatment of animals are gaining momentum. Larry Copeland of USA Today quotes an animal law specialist as saying there is "an explosion of interest" nationwide in all manner of issues affecting the treatment of animals, from exposing the horrors of puppy mills and dogfighting to the torturous practices that are common in factory farming.

The article leads with a mention of the efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York (the legislation is Intro. 658, sponsored by Councilman Tony Avella). Despite Mr. Copeland's decision to refer to individuals who work on improving the treatment of animals as "animal rights activists," he is right about one thing--the grassroots efforts are making a difference.

From a tactical standpoint, it does not seem a good idea to describe oneself as an "animal rights activist." It plays right into the other side's most beloved tactic--to marginalize all humane efforts by portraying opponents as misguided loners who think all living creatures should having voting rights, or such. But it's not so bad. I sincerely wish all animals could vote. Anyway, Carolyn, and Larry, let's stay on topic, please.

Read "Animal Rights Groups Pick Up Momentum" (USA Today, January 28, 2008)
Make your opinion known. Call NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 212-564-7757 and leave a brief message. Better yet, send her a letter: 224 W. 30th Street, Suite 1206, New York, NY 10001
and ask her to support Intro. 658, and to oppose industry bills Intro. 652 and Intro. 653.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Truth Behind the Tradition

Watch the trailer for "Blinders," the soon-to-be-released documentary that takes you behind the scenes of the horse-drawn carriage industry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He Sees Red When He Sees Pink

Willard Paul dismisses efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages as follows:
See the cruel man and the cruel tourist inflicting inhumane and cruel treatment on the nice horsey. See the famished horse as he shivers and shudders, breathing in all that foul and polluted Central Park air, pulling those lazy, self-indulgent tourists being pampered by its unethical and tyrannical owner. Doesn't that just make you see red?

Mr. Paul's comments, posted on his blog "Ponderifications," go on to poke fun at the singer Pink, who has erected a billboard in Times Square in support of the ban outlined in Intro. 658. He says that he "sees red when he sees Pink." He writes that he's no supporter of animal cruelty--it's just that he doesn't think horse-drawn carriages are cruel.

The facts show otherwise. Between 1994 and 2007, there were 26 accidents involving horse-drawn carriages. We know that two of these were unreported, and this raises questions about how many accidents have gone unreported. Five horses died, four others collapsed and died from other causes, and 31 people were injured.

Surprised? Jill Weitz describes details of a few more accidents that involved spooked horses:

"In 2000 a carriage horse bucked, tipping over a carriage and injuring a family of 4. The horse then took off through the park heading straight for a hot dog vendor who had to jump out of the way. "Thank God no one was killed," said the driver, The Daily News quoted the driver as saying. In 1999, a runaway horse and carriage struck a car and jumped the sidewalk, where it knocked down a 70-year old man and a 68-year-old woman. The woman was pinned under one of the horse's rear hooves. Also in 1999, a cab driver suffered head and neck injuries after a horse bolted, and got stuck between a parked car and the cab. In 1997 a runaway horse ran over a tourist, knocked her to the ground and dragged her for a few feet. The driver allegedly took off with the horse, but was later apprehended by police, The Daily News reported.

An 1800-pound bolting horse is a weapon, as we've seen over and over again. Horses take off in flight when they are afraid because they are prey animals. And there is a lot to be afraid of if you're a horse in the middle of a city. How much longer does the carriage horse industry--and the city council and mayor-- expect us to look the other way and pretend that this is a quaint, harmless industry?
Other major cities, such as Toronto, London, and Paris, as well as smaller cities in the US, have banned horse-drawn carriages. It's time to put this inhumane and dangerous industry out to pasture."

Mr. Paul, a self-described former Baptist pastor, elaborates on his viewpoint about animals in general and horses in particular: "I believe that humans are far superior to the most superior animal. I also believe that God gave us animals to make our labor easier, and for eating," his online profile states.

Blog editor's note: Lordy.

It is time for ban horse-drawn carriages. SUPPORT Intro. 658 and OPPOSE the dangerous industry bills Intro 652 and Intro 653.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Expert Opinion: Ed Sayres

"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.”
--Ed Sayres, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The ASPCA supports Intro. 658 to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

Two-part Action Alert:
1) Familiarize yourself with the New York City Council and ask your Council member to cosponsor Intro. 658, the legislation introduced by Councilman Tony Avella.

2) Also ask him or her to NOT SUPPORT and to VOTE AGAINST Intro. 652 and Intro. 653, both industry bills, which would increases rates for drivers and advocate for costly and ineffective self-regulation of the industry, respectively. Intro. 653 offers "Band-Aid" measures such as more inspections and would create a situation in which a non-governmental agency (ie, a contractor with close ties to the industry) would have oversight, further complicating the quagmire that already exists--and at a high additional cost to taxpayers. As the ASPCA has noted, the industry needs more regulation, not less.

Intro. 653 is particularly worrisome, specifically the language describing the proposed inspections. They would be conducted "by authorized officers, veterinarians and employees of the department, and any persons designated by the commissioner."

Tip: Your letter sent by the U.S. Postal Service is said to have a far greater impact than email.

On the Run in Savannah

A television reporter in Savannah, Georgia seemed to have the right idea with her piece titled "Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident Raises Concerns." Alaina Anderson told of the recent accident in Texas, where an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) spooked a horse and the driver was run over by the carriage and seriously injured. She described the recent accident in Charleston, South Carolina that injured six people; in this accident, a single horse was pulling a carriage with 13 passengers.

Ms. Anderson wrote that she was worried about the efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, and she described the recent accidents in Charleston and Texas as unusual. It is rare that horses spook, she said. Carriages rides are romantic and nostalgic, she added.

While this kind wishful thinking and civic-mindedness may be commendable with respect to advocating for lemonade stands and flower carts, it is ill-informed and badly misguided in a discussion about having horses work in city traffic.

Evidence has shown that there is no way to make city streets safe for horses. Around loud noises and cars, it is sadly predictable that a horse will become spooked. In such a scenario, the horse will usually be injured.
Recent accidents in smaller cities and towns have demonstrated the established likelihood that a horse will get spooked by noise: jackhammers, construction, cars, honking horns, and ATVs are some of the noises that have led to serious accidents in recent weeks.

Ms. Anderson's online piece included a link to Carriage Tours of Savannah.

Read an expert opinion about the lives of carriages horses in New York City.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Buck Cruelty, Pink Says

Rocker Pink wants everyone to know that horse-drawn carriages are a bad idea--and she took out a billboard in Times Square to get the message out!
Check the story and see the 'Pink for PETA' billboard.
Tell all the gang at old 42nd Street: say NO to horse-drawn carriage rides.

Pink supports Councilman Avella's Intro 658, which would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Six Hurt In South Carolina Carriage Accident

Horse Spooks, Carriage Overturns, 6 of 13 Passengers Injured
A spooked carriage horse slipped its bridle and bolted down a street in the historic district of Charleston, S.C., and 6 of 13 passengers were injured when the carriage overturned. All were treated at a local hospital and released. (The horse's condition was not clear from initial news reports. A photograph of the crash site showed the horse standing.)

The accident happened Wednesday afternoon on the historic South Battery. The carriage driver told police that the horse tried to turn a corner and the carriage hit the curb, sending the carriage several feet into the air before crashing. The impact threw the tourists onto the street and the carriage came to rest on one of them, police said.

Witnesses said it was not clear what spooked the horse. "The horse just kicked up and took off," said Renee Gerken, a local resident.

Read the story in the Post and Courier (January 10, 2008)

Although tour operators described this as a "freak accident," a strong evidence base shows that the probability of this type of accident is very predictable. "It's just not good publicity," another tour operator is quoted by the Post and Courier as saying. Still another said the animals "are very well trained." All of this is fully irrelevant with respect to the probability that a carriage horse working in traffic will become spooked, which usually results in injuries.

This is not the first horse-drawn carriage accident in Charleston. Three tourists were injured in 2001 when two carriages collided, apparently after the horses were spooked at a noisy hotel construction site. In 2000, a mule pulling a carriage got spooked by a bicycle and crashed a truck; the animal and the seven people aboard escaped injury. A two-carriage collision in 2000 injured two passengers. In 1996, a horse spooked by hedge trimmers took off in traffic and ran through intersections before jumping a curb; four tourists were injured.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Life and Death of Juliet

The death in September 2006 of Juliet has yet to be fully explained. The carriage horse died under mysterious circumstances that had prompted an investigation into the cause. After she collapsed, her owner, Antonio Provenzano, was seen striking her with a thin whip in an effort to get her back on her feet. Mr. Provenzano said he was acting on telephone orders from a veterinarian (perhaps on the assumption that the horse had colic, a scenario in which the horse would be better to stand up) and continued whipping his horse, even as onlookers yelled at him to stop. A police officer ordered Mr. Provenzano to stop the beating. However, mounted unit officers who arrived at the scene allowed him to continue whipping the horse. Employees of a hotel eventually came to the scene with a rug, on which Juliet was placed. She was then dragged into a police trailer and taken to West Side Livery Stables, where at 5 a.m. she died following several hours of treatment. A necropsy was ordered to determine why and how Juliet died. Mr. Provenzano and others had suggested that Juliet had collapsed from a heart attack, or perhaps colic. Notably, colic can be deadly in a horse and most cases require veterinary treatment.

Mr. Provenzano has moved on. Now he drives Benny. Hey, it's a job.

Read "For Central Park Carriage Horse, Death Arrives Inelegantly" (New York Times. Sept 16, 2006)
Read "A Life and Death Without Dignity" on the Friends of Animals Web site (Sept. 19, 2006)

"No Such Thing As an Unspookable Horse"

There is no such thing as an unspookable horse, nor can the average driver control it once it bolts."
--Holly Cheever, DVM

Holly Cheever, DVM, is one of the world's foremost equine authorities and has been the primary adviser to 20 U.S. municipalities, including New York City, that have sought guidance on this subject.
She has documented the obvious insults to the welfare of carriage horses (visible injuries, pollution, heat-related illness, feeding, hygiene, musculoskeletal problems, such as lameness and hoof deterioration) as well as those that are unseen (ie, the cumulative health effects of insult to welfare). Dr. Cheever has clearly delineated the risks of accidents involving carriage horses; a horse that becomes spooked is uncontrollable and usually suffers injury. In New York, which has the highest carriage horse accident rate in the nation, 98% of horses that became spooked were injured.

As Dr. Cheever and other equine experts have noted, these carriage horse issues create a constellation of risks that cannot be managed by specific interventions. Because of the inherent risks of putting horses into traffic, Dr. Cheever and other equine experts advocate full bans on horse-drawn carriages. Dr. Cheever's recommendations are widely published, and in 2006 she sent New York City Mayor Bloomberg a letter detailing her concerns about the health issues and risks faced by carriage horses. She stated unequivocally that horses don't belong in city traffic, "due to the distressing history of injury and deaths (both equine and human) that have occurred across the country due to carriage-car collisions." The only course of action that would eliminate this carnage in New York City is to ban horse-drawn carriages, Dr. Cheever advised the mayor and the City Council.

Read "Being Taken for a Ride--The Case for Horse-Drawn Carriages for Tourism," on the Animal Aid Web site
Read the letter sent by Holly Cheever, DVM, to Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council (Jan. 16, 2006)

A Headline-Making Issue: UK, Australia

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is the latest news agency to distribute this story on its news wires, and the Yorkshire Post (UK) also ran its own report on the movement to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. The AFP report chronicles some obvious problems with horse-drawn carriages in New York City, including cramped stables and dangers to the horses forced to work in heavy traffic. Read the AFP story as published Jan. 1, 2008, in The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), and the Yorkshire Post story (Dec. 31, 2007). The issue has made headlines worldwide in recent weeks since the introduction by Councilman Tony Avella of legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriages in the city (Intro 658).

In the news: A family is recovering after being thrown from a horse-drawn carriage that overturned in Pennsylvania. The accident sent five people to hospitals. Read an update