Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Horse-drawn carriage rides: a bad idea

The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names,
the philosopher says.

Horse-drawn carriages in NYC? In a word, inhumane. It is time for a ban.

Perhaps you found this blog by accident. If so, please consider that a proposed FULL BAN on horse-drawn carriages in New York City is supported by a diverse coalition of groups and individuals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals supports this legislation calling for a full ban, as does the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, and dozens of other organizations. The issue is not a frivolous one, or motivated by hatred. New York City's horse-drawn carriage industry is inhumane and cannot be made safer--a dire circumstance that the ASPCA has fully acknowledged. Horse-drawn carriages in New York City traffic pose risks to the horses as well as the public safety. The industry problems can't be "fixed." An environmentally friendly, economically feasible alternative business is proposed.

New Yorkers and visitors would do well to reflect on the words of Henry Bergh, who decried all manner of animal mistreatment and in 1866 founded the ASPCA. “This is a matter purely of conscience,” Bergh concluded, an observation prompted in part by the plight of horses at that time. “It has no perplexing side issues."

True now as it was then. In 2008, a ban on horse-drawn carriages is the right thing to do.

Please let compassion inform your summer travel decisions.

And, as a friend of mine likes to say, "Take a walk. It's good for you."

ACTION ALERT: Please support the ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Make it clear to your City Council member that you support the ban (Intro. 658) and ask him or her to do the same. Also take a moment to call the office of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is blocking this humane legislation--as she has done so far with all animal-friendly legislation.
Non-New York City residents: Please contact the mayor's office to say that you support a full ban on horse-drawn carriages.
Phone: 212-NEW-YORK (outside NYC)
Mailing Address:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Good news, bad news

Fisticuffs in Hell's Kitchen?
A cheerful correspondent on W. 45th Street tells me that he witnessed the standard angry gridlock Tuesday evening around 6 p.m. Turns out a testy taxi driver was madly honking his horn directly behind a horse-drawn carriage approaching Shamrock Stables. We're told that the carriage driver had some special words for the cabbie, along the lines of: "What the heck? It's a horse! Give it a break!" Good news, of course, the horse made it safely into the stable. Bad news is that the horse has to work in those conditions every day.
I could say more of the bad news faced by the carriage horses that must walk up steep ramps at various stables to get cramped stalls, but I'll leave it at that. The road rage in this neighborhood is classic, what with drivers hell-bound for New Jersey and cabbies who just filled up the tank at the Hess station.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In case you missed it

A police horse bolted at the sound of screeching brakes and ran free earlier this month on a street in lower Manhattan. This after throwing his rider, a veteran police officer. Fortunately, the horse, Aldo, found his way back to the stable and the officer suffered no serious injuries.
Thanks, Flynn, for suggesting this worthy topic! Two words: horses spook. More precisely, no horse is unspookable. That's the long and short of it. More later. Say, don't those police horses have NICE DIGS!
Photo: Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Monday, May 26, 2008

What goes though a horse's mind?

It doesn't take a horse whisperer to tell us about the glum looks on the faces of New York City carriage horses. Our good friend Dan Piraro--artist, cartoonist, and author--hit the nail squarely on the head with his cartoon depicting life on the hack line.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Anything but authentic

John B. Moore, like many others, once thought that New York's carriage industry was a harmless tradition that didn't warrant a second look. Now, he writes on the Central Park Blog, he has been forced "to confront the awful truth" about the industry, reckoning that there is no excuse for making the horses live the way they do--living in squalid cells and working in some of the nation's worst traffic.
Like many of us who have discovered this same awful truth, The Central Park Blogger has been confronted with the industry's PR machinery, which is quite elaborate. Between the paid PR person (Carolyn Daly) and lobbyist Thomas McMahon (whose lone associate in his firm, Jean Kim, is lobbying for the carriage industry), and the unfortunate mix of politics and "oversight," given that McMahon's wife, Linda Gibbs, is the Bloomberg appointee who oversees the Department of Health), you can begin to see how politically entrenched this cash-only industry is. Much effort is devoted to making the horse-drawn carriage industry appear to be an inconsequential diversion. Harmless? That it isn't, because putting horses into traffic endangers the horses as well as the public.

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Springtime: a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Tuesday was a washout, with an on-again, off-again chilly rain. The photo was taken during a brief respite in the drizzle. This poor guy was out in the rain, shivering and looking miserable, although the "hack line" was closed, as you can see and as authorities confirmed. The horse looked unwell, and the hack line was shut down--but there he is. The driver? He was dressed in foul-weather gear, seeking shelter nearby. Keep in mind, this photo was shot during a break in the rain.

Does this seem right to you? Seems wrong to me. The line was closed for a reason: this was a gray, rainy day. New York's "acid rain" isn't that great on the eyeballs, either. The horse was soaked; its veins looked prominent, I guess because of the blustery chill in the air. It makes me feel sick just to look at it and remember what a mess my own commute was. (OK, my feet were wet and my umbrella not that great, but nothing like this horse's day). A soupy day also heightens the traffic risks.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION. Let your City Council member know that you vote--and you support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. Please ask your lawmaker to co-sponsor this landmark legislation. It is fully supported by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and dozens of other animal welfare organizations. But your voice must be heard at City Hall if this measure is to move ahead. Please don't assume that your voice does not matter: that is a dangerous assumption.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.--Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, May 19, 2008

Get to know a carriage driver

Say, what's it like to be a carriage driver?
'Ask a New Yorker'(TM) spoke with Brandon, who in 2006 had been driving a carriage for 25 years--long enough to get the hang of the job, apparently. He described it this way:
"I can't think of another job where I can sit on my butt all day, bull****, and make a reasonable amount of money. Unless I was a politician or lawyer."
Nice, isn't it? That's the gist of it. The "New Yorker of the Month" threw in the standard insults about tourists asking silly questions--your basic New York attitude. Seriously! Read it
Susan d'Arcy makes a pointed observation of her own (HorseWatchNYC, May 12, 2008)


A full ban is supported by: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, and dozens of other mainstream organizations working together through the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The law, for what it's worth

When it comes to jaywalking and horn-honking, New Yorkers disregard laws every day. We overlook these violations and proceed at our own risk.

How often have you seen a New York City carriage horse working in steamy 90-degree heat? The New York City Administrative Code has this to say: "Carriage horses shall not be worked whenever the air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above." (There is no consideration for humidity in the law).

So, the next time the mercury soars above 90 degrees, with high humidity, and when you witness the sight of these horses dragging carriages around and inhaling exhaust fumes, ask yourself: Is this necessary? Is it right? Read a recap of the 2007 audit report.

Please get involved with the growing movement that supports proposed legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. For decades, attempts at regulation have failed miserably. A full ban is supported by a diverse coalition of dozens of organizations including: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Friends of Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Equine Advocates, and many others.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Compassionate Choice in Central Park

The new Frommer's travel guide steers you clear of the tourist traps, three-card Monte contests, and chain restaurants in New York City. Horse-drawn carriage ride? Save your money, and "pity those poor beasts of burden," the guidebook advises. "The horses look so forlorn, as if it's the last thing they want to do."

You can still kick back and enjoy a leisurely look at the park. Consider an alternative called Manhattan Rickshaw Company (tel 212/604-4729). "This beast of burden has two legs, and pedals you and a companion in the back of a pedicab, where the rate is negotiable but is usually about $1 per minute with a $10 minimum," according to the 2008 guidebook. Or check current rates on the website at:
Photo: "Caesar" by Sarah Dreitlein

Monday, May 12, 2008

What's a fabulous girl to do in NYC?

Hint: It doesn't involve a ride in a horse-drawn carriage!
The "Sex and the City" movie is almost here, and feature writer Susan d'Arcy of The Times Online (UK) has been doing some advance work, living the good life in NYC. Her article has all the tips for your fabulous visit in the Big Apple. First rule: Don't even think of taking a horse-drawn carriage ride.
"Don't go near the horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park. Whatever passion survives the stench of the nags is swiftly extinguished by the hard-nosed attitude of the drivers," she writes.
Ouch! What can I add? There's plenty of fun to be had in NYC. But it's not cool to take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage! Meet me at Jacques Torres Chocolate!

The consequences are predictable

The latest bad news from Salisbury Township in Amish country
Gruesome buggy accidents apparently are so common in Pennsylvania that newspapers don't even bother to report the fate of the horse. In the latest accident, a buggy driven by an 11-year-old boy collided with a minivan, ejecting the buggy driver and 3 other children. None was injured.
Putting horses into traffic is a recipe for disaster, in the city and in the country. That a child would be allowed to drive a buggy is incomprehensible, although no individual would be made safer in the circumstance of a buggy-versus-motor vehicle collision. Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

One woman's view

Film student Jennifer Pham went to Central Park recently to get the story on the NYC carriage horses. View her video report on YouTube.
Learn more -- Visit the website of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Keeping it real in Denver

Can a horse be "bomb-proofed"? Some people think so, although equine veterinarians say that no horse is unspookable. A proposal that would require recertification of carriage drivers and their horses has prompted months of vigorous debate in Denver. Mounted police commander Deborah Dilley points to New York's troubles as a warning.
"In New York City, there have been huge issues," Dilley said. "There, carriage horses have run into cars and have run over people."
One of the best replies is from David:
"You don't want to do the tests? Then you should have to carry $10 million to $20 million dollars of liability insurance for when your horse goes crazy after a drive-by shooting and runs over a family." Read more
New York City, the great shining city on the hill. What an arrogant example to the world.
Say, why is it that carriage drivers in NYC get away with carrying so little liability insurance? Is this a holdover from a turn-of-the-century law?


Friday, May 9, 2008

The more things change?

Read about the Central Park massacre of 1883. It seems the carriage drivers have a long and colorful tradition of really BAD behavior.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blinders: the truth behind the tradition

Critical acclaim for the new documentary "Blinders"
"Hopefully, for the sake of the Central Park horses, this powerful film will prove unforgettable." --Dallas Observer, April 27, 2008
"Nicely done!" --Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary

"Blinders" premiered in Dallas last month to a very enthusiastic audience and a rousing Q&A, with director Donny Moss in attendance. Now this award-winning documentary is being screened in the New York City metro area! Watch the trailer and find screening information
Read "Film Highlights Suffering of NYC Carriage Horses" (news release, Humane Society of the United States)

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Awakening!

"Spring Awakening" actress Lea Michele is the latest celebrity to say, "Buck Cruelty" and join the fight to ban horse-drawn carriages. Read more
ACTION ALERT: Tell your City Council member that you also support a ban, and ask that he or she do the same. Not a New York resident? Tell the mayor's office of your support. Call: 212-NEW-YORK

What's with the fluff from the Times?

The New York Times must be feeling the pinch or letting unpaid interns run the show these days. What's with all the puff pieces, the spoon-fed news releases masquerading as stories, and the lack of balance? What happened to fact-checking? Where's the rest of the story?
Read a letter by Priscilla Feral, President of Friends of Animals as published in the Times (April 2008)
Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages

Monday, May 5, 2008

Not tourism

It's crazy to have to explain cruelty over and over again. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that some of these carriage horses look as if they're already dead. I was speaking with tourists on Saturday near the park, and the comment I kept hearing was: "The horses look so awful."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

From the archives: this isn't tourism

Marcela D said it best: The death of Smoothie in September 2007 was a turning point:
This is it! Another horse suffering a needless and horrifying death. I will never visit New York again until horse-carriages are banned. I urge everyone to call or write the Mayor of New York and tell him he will be losing a lot of tourism dollars because of this.
Marcela's comment appeared on the Web site of the Toronto Humane Society following the death of Smoothie.

ACTION ALERT: Ask New York City's elected officials to support a BAN on horse-drawn carriages.
Contact the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg (City Hall, New York, NY 10007. Phone: 311 (or: 212-New-York, outside of NYC)

Contact City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
(City Hall, New York, NY 10007). Legislative Office Phone: (212) 788-7210

More horse cruelty, part 2

Apologies for going off topic yet again
I'm anticipating a few will ask, "What's wrong with horse racing?" When humans view animals as commodities, especially for greedy enterprises such as gambling, things become gruesome. Rather like the gladiators. A bit like dogfighting. Animal cruelty is not entertainment.
Read more from CHAI
Read more from
AnimalAID (UK)
Why do Tennessee Walking Horses having the distinctive gait? Soring.

Horse-drawn carriages do not belong in New York City. Support a ban. This 19th-century conveyance is inhumane as well as irrelevant.
Visit the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages to learn more.

Tourist attraction, or cruel spectacle?

"We have an impeccable safety record."
--Carolyn Daly, public relations professional hired by the NYC carriage horse industry

A review of the facts is in order. At least six people have been hospitalized and three horses have died from carriage accidents in New York since 2006. From 1994 to 2007, there have been at least 26 accidents, at least two of which were unreported (have there been others?)

A 2007 audit by City Comptroller William C. Thompson acknowledged the disheartening fact that the city had "dropped the ball" with respect to adequate care of New York City's carriage horses. The report also had something to say about poor record-keeping. The problems include lack of water and risks of overheating. In February 2008, Clancy, an 8-year-old Percheron, died in his stall.

The trade does profit on the ignorance of tourists. To what degree, we don't know, because it's a cash-only business. What we do see, however, is that prospective tourists increasingly are forgoing visits to New York City because they don't want to see this inherently abusive industry.

Tourism? Not! Read one visitor's recent comment (HorseWatchNYC post, May 3).

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to support a ban on horse-drawn carriages. She rules the Council with an iron fist, intimidating colleagues who would support the ban (Intro. 658). She is effectively blocking this legislation, as she has done with all humane legislation pertaining to animal well-being. This includes the pets-in-housing bill.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

More horse abuse

On a related note...
The cruel and exploitive horse-racing industry has claimed another life.
Godspeed, Eight Belles.
Thoroughbred racehorses are often sent to slaughter in Mexico and Canada after they have outlived their usefulness. Read "Battle to Save Horses From Slaughterhouse" (Toronto Star, May 3, 2008)
Say a prayer for New York City's downtroddren carriage horses as you ponder this issue.

Action Alert: Send a message to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn asking her to support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC. Or phone her office and leave a short message. Better yet, mail her a letter!

Cruelty isn't a tourist attraction

Kathleen gets it right: animal cruelty is a real turn-off

"Please let me know who to write to support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in Times Square. We have similiar carriage horses in Colorado and they do not look at all like their cousins in Times Square. Those poor horses are surrounded by constant noise, people and bright light, and who knows how they are treated. During a recent visit, a friend and I saw a pair of horses that looked so miserable, we kept petting them, not wanting to leave them to their questionable plight...these two looked exhausted, possibly underfed and really miserable, and it didn’t seem that an outside agency is making sure these animals are properly cared for, including limited time periods spent pulling in Times Square."— Posted by Kathleen, April 22, 2008

Comment on the Web site of The New York Times ("A Face-Off Over Horse-Drawn Carriages"), Feb 14, 2008
Comment moderation on the Times' City Room blog is waning and a response hasn't been posted.

Ed's note: Kathleen may have seen horses that were on the way back to their stables on the west side.

Quinn's version of leadership

Bad enough that we have an animal-hater at the helm of the City Council in Christine Quinn. Even more painful, taxpayers are being forced to pay for her $600-an-hour lawyer.
I can't believe this is New York City politics in the year 2008. Council Member Tony Avella is the only one with the guts to speak out against the lunacy of having taxpayers foot the bill for Quinn's lawyer. Quinn, the council at large, and the horse-drawn carriage industry--corruption piled on top of corruption.
Read "Lawyers for Counsel Seen As Departure" (The New York Sun, April 28, 2008)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The questions that keep me awake

Speaking of 10th Avenue...
What's the deal with horses trying to eat out of garbage cans? Are these creatures feisty critters, or just plain hungry? Is the idea to pull them over on the way up from the Byrne and West Side Livery stables for a bite from that bucket of tasty pellet food that they share with the pigeons, so that no time will be wasted when the horses get all the way up to the park?

And why would a driver pull a horse over for a break in a bus lane???