Sunday, June 8, 2008

Horses Working Through the Heat

Heat Wave This Weekend
New York City is in the midst of a heat wave, and you can be sure the horses are out in the searing heat and humidity. By law, the carriage horses are not to be working whenever the air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Because the law does not take "heat index" into account, the high humidity is not factored into the equation. The risk is serious. Horses can die of hyperthermia in just a few hours, and the burden of heat stress to the horses is not necessarily reflected in the official weather bureau readings. As an example, the air temperature as recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the actual asphalt temperature at street level, a Cornell University study found. The New York City Department of Transportation has found that asphalt surfaces can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Compounding the risk is the problem of inadequate water supply for the horses.
Photo courtesy of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

You can see how working outside in these conditions poses clear risks. So, when you see a carriage horse working when temperatures are 90 or higher, call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to file a report (and good luck getting through). The ASPCA's offices are closed on weekends, so when excessive heat is forecast on a Friday for the upcoming weekend, call the ASPCA (212-876-7700, ext. 4450) and urge that a Humane Law Officer be on the job at the park. It is important to let the ASPCA know that you are concerned about the health and safety of the horses. Put the phone number into your phone "Contact" list and keep an eye on the horses this summer. Until there is a ban, let's do all we can to help the horses.
Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City


Anonymous said...

Is there someone else to contact in the city besides the ASPCA on when the weather is too hot?

Mary Alice said...

Unfortunately, few people in NYC government care about the carriage horses. Please do call the ASPCA on weekdays, and anytime a scorching heat wave is forecast for the weekend. I encourage you to call Mayor Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Linda Gibbs, the police commissioner, and anyone else to whom you'd like to express your outrage. Be sure to call Carolyn Daly, the public relations professional for the industry!

I went by Columbus Circle briefly around 5:30 p.m., and I didn't see any in the vicinity of the Columbus Circle hack line (I didn't make it over by the Plaza). A pedicab driver said he hadn't seen any. This is good news, because it is hellishly hot today. Unseasonably hot, even if it were August.

Be assured that the drivers, however, routinely ignore the rule about 90-degree heat. All you have to do is look around this summer, and I encourage you to do so.

Better yet, take video and post it online. Careful, though, that strategy has its own risks.

Last night, it was still soupy and some horses were out. Then the lightening followed and a soaking rain.