Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Where carriage horses live

Surely West Side Livery, one of five carriage horse stables in Manhattan, is one of the worst homes that a horse could have. Most New York City residents go about their daily business not thinking about where the carriage horses live, or perhaps imagining that they are housed in a bucolic setting somewhere in the park. An Animals' Angels investigation tells the real story: tie stalls, sand buckets for fire protection, horses tethered to feeding troughs. Read the report on the website of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. Then take a look at the interior of the stable, which is located at 538 W. 38th Street. (You really should see it for yourself.)
Related news: A New York City veterinarian detailed concerns about the multistory stable, including its complete lack of fire protection system, poor ventilation that compromises the horses' respiratory health, inadequate bedding and cramped standing stalls. Watch a news conference co-sponsored by the coalition, Friends of Animals, and Heart for Animal Rights.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No life for a horse

Animal suffering is not a tourist attraction
There are a number of similarities between the horse-drawn carriage industries in Charleston and New York City. Namely, both are politically entrenched, which further illustrates the sad divide between the way things are and the way things should be. Horse-drawn carriages should not be a political issue in these 21st-century cities.

"Earthvegan" blogger Vaishali is the latest to point out an uncivil and troubling disregard for animal suffering, coupled with an alarming cognitive dissonance that must be at work to enable these industries to exist. She writes of a visit to Charleston, where she witnessed the miserable spectacle of a carriage horse pulling 17 tourists around. She also calls out New York City, where the industry is fast gaining notoriety for its multistory stables and dangerous and inhumane working conditions. The one glimmer of hope in this story is that bad news travels as well as good news. Maybe even better.
Photo: From "If Horses Had Wishes"/earthvegan.blogspot.com
Related: "Horse-code violations" (The Post and Courier)
"Horse Pulling Carriage Falls" (The Post and Courier)
"Blinders," the award-winning documentary about NYC's carriage industry

Learn more: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages-NYC

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Apathy is the order of the day

Only 9% of registered Democrats turned out for Tuesday's primary. How sad. Great news for the crooks on the City Council, however, the same ones who conspired with Bloomberg to overturn term limits. Christine Quinn tops the list. Godspeed to the feds who are investigating the slush fund scandal.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

San Gennaro story...

Mayoral candidate Tony Avella, sponsor of the bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, was the man of the hour on Saturday during the feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy!

The welcome was especially warm at Caffe Palermo, home of world-famous pastries and other treats.
A little drizzle did not deter the enthusiastic crowds from stopping him to say hello. A few times the crowd cheered: "Tony! Tony! Tony!"

Get out the vote! The Democratic primary is Tuesday, September 15 and polls are open from 6 a.m. until 9 pm.
Also see: Suzannah B. Troy artist interview with Tony Avella from San Gennaro festival

Monday, September 7, 2009

A leader, not a follower

Mayoral candidate Tony Avella speaks out here on a subject dear to his heart: his strong record of animal-friendly legislation. He is the true leader in this arena, unlike others who say one thing and do another--or worse still, do nothing. As the author of the landmark legislation that would ban New York City's inhumane horse-drawn carriage industry, Tony Avella has distinguished himself by standing up for what is right. And he supports all manner of humane legislation, a rarity in the City Council.

This is the season of political posturing. Don't be misled by empty promises. Tony Avella is the real deal. If you vote and you care about animals as well as people, exercise your right and vote for Tony Avella on September 15 in the Democratic primary.
Those City Council members who secretly favor a ban on horse-drawn carriages but are too cowed by Christine Quinn to have the courage of their convictions are pretty well useless on any issue.
ACTION ALERT: Registered Democrats, vote for Tony Avella on Sept. 15 in the Democratic primary!
Video used courtesy of: Heart for Animal Rights Activists

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Countdown to Democratic primary!

Vote for Tony Avella on September 15

Tony Avella introduced the landmark legislation that would ban New York City's inhumane horse-drawn carriage industry. He also has sponsored all manner of humane legislation, including the pets-in-housing bill (can you imagine not being able to have a pet?) Truly, he is the best friend that New York City animals have ever had.

Avella works tirelessly for our neighborhoods, something that surely can't be said of Bloomberg or Thompson. Their allegiances are to the real estate industry, not to the people of New York City. Avella is a fighter for small businesses that have been exploited mercilessly. He is a passionate advocate for fixing our broken education system, by empowering teachers and parents and by putting an end to "teaching to the test."

Do your neighbors know what Tony Avella has done for our city? Do the small businesses in your neighborhood? Now is the time to let them know that he has been championing their cause! Spread the word. People will likely be glad to hear from you that there is a meaningful choice. Make history on September 15. Vote in the Democratic primary for the progressive candidate, Tony Avella.

TAKE ACTION! Window and lawn signs are available from the Avella campaign! Request yours today. Contact Hema Patel, Field Director, Tony Avella for Mayor.
PHONE: 718-855-7035
EMAIL: action@tonyavellaformayor.com

Also see: Avella in the News (articles)
In Face-Off, Rivals Take on Bloomberg (NYTimes, Aug. 26, 2009; by David W. Chen)
Insurgent Candidate Fights Bloomberg (NYTimes, July 28, 2009; by David W. Chen)

Avella and Thompson Face Off in First NYC Mayoral Debate (Epoch Times; Aug. 27, 2009; by Joshua Philipp)
In his own words: Avella explains what separates him from Bloomberg
Can Thompson Overcome the Pension Fund Scandal Mess? (Daily News; Aug. 30, 2009; by Adam Lisberg)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Inhumane, dangerous, and irrelevant

Serious accidents, just waiting to happen
Substantial evidence has shown that when carriage horses spook, people are usually injured. No surprise, then, that the summer's news reports bear out these statistics. In a look at a few of the accidents involved horses who spooked, a full 80% of these accidents involved human injury. Spooking accidents are dangerous and sometimes deadly for horses and people. In Krakow, Poland, two accidents in two weeks involving terrified carriage horses left eight people injured, four of them seriously, including two teenage girls. Carriage driver Derek Heckler suffered a cracked skull and later died from his injuries resulting from a horse-spooking accident in San Francisco. In Santa Barbara, Calif., it was a snapped leather strap that apparently terrified a horse who then spooked and bolted during a parade, injuring numerous bystanders. A horse in San Antonio spooked twice in the same day, throwing a passenger from the carriage; no injuries were reported in that accident.
Photo: KrakowInformer.com
Related: Slow-moving conveyances are dangerous in rural areas and suburbs, too. In Clarion, Pa., an SUV smashed into a buggy, injuring 5 people and killing a horse; in Chester County, Pa., a car rear-ended a buggy, killing a woman and a horse and seriously injuring another person.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Managing to extinction

Take Action to stop the Bureau of Land Management unwise plan to remove as many as 70 horses from Cloud's herd in the Pryor Mountains. This ill-advised plan, which is scheduled to begin around September 1, will threaten the very existence of the herd and any genetic viability for future survival. The BLM apparently is ignoring all guidance from the public as well as from a noted equine geneticist.
The Cloud Foundation is asking for your help: "Call and email President Obama and Vice President Biden and tell them that you do not want a misguided agency destroying America's wild horses. Call 201-456-9000 or 202-456-1111, or write. Tell them to intervene on behalf of the Pryor Wild Horse Herd! The BLM appears to be on a rampage to manage wild horses to extinction."
Ginger has said that rounded-up horses could well end up in the hands of "kill buyers." Please take action to stop this ill-advised and reckless plan that is a consequence of bureaucratic mismanagement.
Also see a related video from Ginger Kathrens on the proposed roundup. Cloud and his family are at risk, along with dozens of others.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michael R. Bloomberg, not "Mike"

Michael R. Bloomberg: Bad for horses and people

Who is this "Mike" Bloomberg of the glossy campaign brochures? Is this "Mike the straphanger"? Mike the "all-you-can-eat" dim sum guy? Mike the khakis-wearing mayor? What next, flip-flops and corn dogs?

Michael R. Bloomberg is steely-eyed, bloodless and mean. Don't be fooled by his fancy political strategists. He bought them, the way he buys just about everyone else. He is going to find out that New York City is not for sale.

And Bloomberg allows the corrupt carriage industry to run roughshod, ripping off tourists and taxpayers; endangering the public safety; and promoting unsafe and inhumane living and working conditions for the horses.

Michael, Michael R, Mike, Mayor Mike, or whatever he calls himself on any given day, is finding out that he is not as popular as he thought he was.

Ninety percent of politicians give the other 10 percent a bad reputation.
--Henry Kissinger

Friday, July 10, 2009

Democracy to the highest bidder?

Avella believes in democracy. Does Bloomberg?
We know mayoral candidate Tony Avella as a fighter for our neighborhoods, our small businesses, our schools, and our families. As a New York City Councilman, Avella has been a champion for the animals, notably having introduced the landmark bill that would ban New York City's inhumane and dangerous horse-drawn carriage industry.

You won't hear any kind of meaningful advocacy for animals or individuals or communities from Mayor Bloomberg, whose unwavering dedication is to money. On a staggering scale. Not only does he want us to conveniently forget the extension-of-term-limits debacle that he orchestrated, but now he apparently wants us to toss out the ideals of democracy, too. His comments at the Working Families Party Mayoral Forum on July 2 tell the story.

These remarks are making waves in the city and on the Internet. You can't make this stuff up!
Read what The New York Times said about the forum: "It was Mr. Avella who generated the most applause."
The Times noted that Bloomberg drew "some hisses and even laughter" and was "the least popular of the three."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Working Families Party Mayoral Forum

Too important to miss!
Tony Avella is the people's choice!

Here is the Working Families Party Mayoral Forum webcast in its entirety. Michael R. Bloomberg is up first. Your patience will be rewarded when you hear New York City's wealthiest citizen stammer [cue in to 1:04] that "I made every dime that I have." It's precious. NEXT! Tony Avella follows, and the juxtaposition is very interesting. As we heard from those who were in attendance, and as you can see in viewing the webcast, the energy in the room was electrifying when Tony fielded questions--and he never minces any words. The applause tells the story. Comptroller William C. Thompson was next. Slick and well-rehearsed, as the story goes. He said something but I don't remember what it was.
[Viewing note: Fast-forward the video by opening a full-screen view, and cueing in by clicking on the horizontal nav bar at the bottom of the control panel.]
July 2, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

It happened in New York City

The New York City carriage industry doesn't want tourists to know the truth about the way the horses live and die. One driver in particular is very vocal in shouting down activists, who sometimes show photographic evidence of some of the horses who have died on the job in New York City. Don't be surprised if you see a driver denying the number of horse fatalities, saying they didn't happen in New York, or otherwise decrying as propaganda the facts that are well-documented. These drivers are banking on the ignorance of tourists, most of whom know nothing of the sad history of this industry.

For the sake of balance, this photo by Vito Torelli reminds of a terrible day--and a terrible summer--in New York City history. The August 26, 1991, headline in Newsday read: "Death of Carriage Horse Probed, Same Owner Had One Die 2 Weeks Ago," and the newspaper reported that colic was the presumptive cause in both cases. The New York Times reported the story of the horse who collapsed in Central Park under the headline: "Carriage Horse Treated, Killed, Left for Sanitation Men."

Colic is a leading cause of death for all horses, and particularly for overworked and underwatered carriage horses. They face great danger every day on busy streets, and their health suffers greatly in a number of ways. The very few fortunate horses who are rescued at auction after they can no longer turn a profit are generally in very poor condition, but surely grateful to escape the end-of-the-line auctions where the killer buyers are standing by.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Are you ready for your close-up?

Activist alert: If you do anything to help New York City's carriage horses, be forewarned: You will likely be harassed by the carriage industry. YouTube member "HorsesinNYC" shows individuals being photographed without their consent as they entered a recent meeting at the Bar Association of the City of New York, on 44th Street in midtown Manhattan. Creepy but predictable.

The meeting was an expert panel discussion titled "Yay or Neigh: Should the Carriage Horse Industry Be Banned in NYC?" Carriage industry representatives declined opportunities to take part.
New York City carriage horses suffer greatly, especially during the steamy summer months. The horses are worked hard in searing heat, and with inadequate water. There is no consideration for humidity in the law, which is roundly ignored anyway.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From the "wish I wrote it" department

One activist's account
I am humbled after reading one woman's account of the Mother's Day demonstration outside of Central Park. This blogger, "The Feminist Texican," really tells it like it is. "Like hell I'm letting this one go," she explains in a better-late-than-never post that details the sexual harassment that carriage drivers are allowed to spew with impunity. Read her excellent post, "The Sexual Politics of Meat[heads]."
Also interesting is one commenter's remark that complaint should be sent to Demos Demopoulos, of the Teamsters union (Local 553). Another great idea! Contact information:
Demos Demopoulos

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

265 W. 14th Street, Suite 509

New York, NY 10011

Phone: 212-229-9754 OR 212-929-6828

Photo courtesy of HFA

Related video from YouTube member HorsefeathersNYC

Mother's Day demonstration

Some things never change. Insults and intimidation from carriage drivers were the order of the day at a peaceful demonstration last weekend, but the activists carried on. They're used to it. I just received this video of the very successful event. I'm told that a number of tourists decided not to take a ride after getting more information about this industry and learning about the plight of the horses. I hope these people spread the word!
The infamous "ponytail guy" driver can be seen and heard in this clip. Kind of funny and pathetic.
Video courtesy of YouTube member "HorsefeathersNYC"
For optimal quality viewing, click twice on the video and see it on YouTube.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Should the industry be banned?

Experts Will Take Up The Topic
May 11, 2009, 6:30 pm
A Free Event Presented by the Bar Association of the City of New York

Yay or Neigh:
Should the Carriage Horse Industry be Banned in NYC?
An Expert Panel Discussion
This is your opportunity to hear from experts on issues pertaining to the the horse-drawn carriage industry. Activists have called for a ban, saying that the congested streets of New York City are no place for horses. The industry asserts that horse carriages represent a legitimate business that is vital to tourism. A panel of experts will discuss the proposed ban on horse-drawn carriages and other issues relating to carriage horses.

LORI BARRETT, Deputy County Attorney, Office of the Nassau County Attorney; CHRISTINE MOTT, Christine Mott, Esq.

DR. HOLLY CHEEVER, DVM; ELIZABETH FOREL, President of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages ; DONNY MOSS, Documentary filmmaker, Blinders; MARTHA ROBINSON, Associate General Counsel, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; STACY WOLF, Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel, Humane Law Enforcement, ASPCA

There is no charge to attend. Registration is requested--click here

WHO: Bar Association of the City of New York
WHEN: Monday, May 11, 2009
WHERE: Where: 42 West 44th Street, NYC (between 5th & 6th Avenues)
TIME: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Horse wanted, can pay $100

This is why the United States has a horse overpopulation "problem." People who have no business breeding horses are doing so anyway, as some kind of experiment, apparently. Can they afford it? No, but they can sell to a kill buyer easily enough.

Let's hope that the woman who placed this ad is on very friendly terms with a veterinarian and a farrier, for starters. Surely she won't be euthanizing her failures.

Slaughter is the leading cause of death for thoroughbred race horses. Among breeds, the American Quarterhorse is the one that is most often sent to slaughter. The prospects are grim for most horses. Horse slaughter is another industry fueled by greed.

Learn more about the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gamblers, winners, and losers

Another Derby Day, a big upset, an uncertain future
Like circus animals, racehorses are trained to perform. Running the Kentucky Derby is the racetrack equivalent of a tiger jumping through a fiery hoop: These horses know the drill, and they're running for their lives. Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot, pulled off a runaway victory in the 2009 Derby, no doubt leaving owners and bettors ecstatic.
I wonder how many Derby Day "losers" have been, or will soon be, shipped off to auction and a grim fate. From carriage horses to thoroughbreds, being dumped at auction is a common scenario for any horse who isn't a good money-maker.
Seen in the photo to the right is Colin, a lucky horse in this post-Derby tale from 2008.
The blogger of this tale names names, thankfully.
Also: Tribute to some lost souls from 2008: Miss Fancy Gold and All Be At Once (near end of post).
Photo: FHOTD

Saturday, April 25, 2009

He's pushing for horse slaughter

Ed Butcher and the showdown in Montana
The man who is pushing for a horse slaughter plant in Montana doesn't want any "harassment by two-bit hippies," a reference to the predictable protests at other horse slaughter plants over the documented discharges, dumping, foul odors, and utterly inhumane methods of slaughter.
Photo: Saskatchewan plant operated by the Velda Group/Cavel
Rep. Ed Butcher, sponsor of Montana House Bill 418 that is intended to attract a horse-slaughter facility to the state, seeks to portray assure his colleagues and constituents that a proposed horse slaughter plant will be clean, modern, and humane (all evidence to the contrary with former US horse slaughter facilities). In fact, the now-shuttered Cavel plant in Illinois had accumulated $100,000 in fines for sewer discharge violations. Importantly, Cavel was operated by the Belgium-owned Velda Group--the same company that is interested in setting up a slaughterhouse in Montana. The picture was even more dismal at the Cavel-operated Canadian plant in Saskatchewan, where mountains of horse entrails littered the landscape and the company is alleged to have dumped tankers full of horse blood into fields that allow runoff into the Qu'Appelle River. As for the much-touted economic boost that Butcher is promising, keep in mind that the Saskatchewan plant was placed in receivership last fall with debts of $25 million.
Read "Showdown at Horse Slaughter Pass," by John Holland of Equine Welfare Alliance
Read a CBC News investigation of horse slaughter in Canada

Urgent Action Alert: Both houses of the state legislature have returned this bill. Call Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and ask him to veto HB418 - the bill that would allow the creation of horse slaughter facilities in Montana. Please use the word "VETO."
Phone: 406-444-3111
Fax number: 406-444-5529

Saturday, April 18, 2009

And now, for some comic relief

The recent hearing at City Hall on two bills affecting New York City's horse-drawn carriage industry was long and, at times, contentious. YouTube user PitytheHorses keeps us laughing, though, with this excerpt from the testimony of carriage driver Frank Rodden. He is a horseman. How do we know? Because he told us so, repeatedly!
Especially humorous is his dismissal of bloggers and other online pursuits, such as YouTube. Rodden informs us that horses are his life, not just something he "does" for 30 minutes in front of a computer screen. No blogger is he, we're told, though he is handy with a computer. This is a man who must be online at least three hours a day. So well known, in fact, is Rodden that he is frequently referred to as "the ponytail guy" in the blogosphere and YouTube realms.
View Rodden's full testimony
Video by Anthony Speziale
Note: For optimal viewing, click twice on the video and view it on YouTube.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The awful fate of carriage horses

Here we see a true horsewoman, Linda Marcus, speaking about her rescues, which include a former New York City carriage horse that was one day away from slaughter when she was saved. This testimony was part of a public hearing on two bills: one that would ban the horse-drawn industry, and another that would reward it and further erode oversight and accountability. Ms. Marcus supports a ban and opposes the industry bill, as do the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, numerous animal advocacy organizations, and the Bar Association of the City of New York. This compelling testimony from the January 2009 hearing exposes the convenient services of faux rescue organizations that collaborate with industry to take its castoffs--and ultimately, to get rid of them. All within the loophole, I mean law, that requires "humane disposition" of New York City carriage horses.
These kinds of arrangements are being exposed with increasing frequency. Slaughter provides an easy way out to the ones who break down horses, overbreed them, or otherwise misuse them. Indeed, the horse industry at large has rewarded this behavior for years, paying people to make the horses disappear. Issues may or may not be resolved at legislative levels, but "outing" those who dump horses into the laps of kill buyers may ultimately be the most effective thing of all.
Related reading:
Recently we heard that thoroughbred owner Ernie Paragallo says he
lost track of his horses, and that some likely met a grim fate in Canada. Paragallo has since been charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals.

Another former NYC carriage horse, "Manhattan," rescued from a grim fate (from Carriage Horses-NYC blog)
And finally, All about farrier care--and owner responsibility
(from Horseshoes.com)

Friday, April 3, 2009

And the winner is...

"Blinders" ... for Outstanding TV Documentary!
Congratulations, Donny Moss!
A huge honor at the 23rd Annual Genesis Awards for independent filmmaker Donny Moss, whose documentary "Blinders: The Truth Behind the Tradition" was named Best TV Documentary. "Definitely a happy night for me, the activists, and, of course, the carriage horses," said Moss, seen in the photo accepting his award at the March 28, 2009 awards presentation. "Blinders" shows us the realities of New York City's horse-drawn carriage industry, which is deemed inhumane by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), sponsor of the Genesis Awards. The ASPCA, HSUS, countless animal advocacy groups, and the New York City Bar Association support a full ban, as outlined in legislation introduced by New York City Council member Tony Avella. "Blinders" is credited with helping to make more people aware of the plight of New York City's carriage horses.
See more photos of Donny Moss and other honorees on Flicker.
After the film was nominated in February, The Documentary Channel (DOC) added more screenings, on Monday, April 20, at 10 pm and Saturday, April 25, at 6 pm (both ET). DOC is available on DISH Network (Channel 197), and several broadcast stations in major markets including NYC TV (Channel 25) throughout the greater New York metropolitan area. DOC also has made the full-length "Blinders" documentary available to online audiences on the network's exclusive Sling.com channel.
Winners of 2009 Genesis Awards by category
Photo: Long Photography
Also available: Read an interview with Donny Moss on Advocate.com

Sunday, March 29, 2009

So glad you said that...

The fine folks from NYC & Co., the tourism agency of New York City, are seen in this amusing clip explaining in withering detail how the carriage industry rakes in the money. Never mind that the city derives not a single penny of direct revenue from this cash-only business. Kimberly Spell is persistent, though, even wagging a finger at Council Member Tony Avella several times as he listens intently to her explanation. See why Avella, sponsor of the bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, is so delighted to hear her say it!
Avella invoked the rarely used Sponsor's Privilege rule to force a public hearing in January on two bills affecting the carriage industry: his proposed ban, and an industry bill that would help the drivers but not the horses. NYC & Co. has drunk Mayor Bloomberg's Kool-Aid, which is why their math is so fuzzy. This hilarious testimony provided comic relief during the long hearing, I'm told.
Video by Anthony Speziale. Visit "PitytheHorses" channel on YouTube for more clips (more to come, we're told!)
Also see: "One Council Member to Another"

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Best of the worst: Andrew Eiler

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) doesn't know the legally allowable fare for a horse-drawn carriage. Or, at least, Andrew Eiler, the DCA's legislative director, didn't know when that question was asked of him at the public hearing. He pulls out some legalese at the end, giving us the "tree in the forest" line of thinking--that there's no problem unless a consumer files a complaint. Convenient, because tourists don't KNOW they're being blatantly and illegally ripped off. That's going to change! Anyway, view this entertaining clip of what Tony Avella, sponsor of Intro. 658, described as "the poorest testimony." Hilarious.
This is one of the first video clips to be made available from the hearing, and we're told that others are being uploaded soon. Watch for them on YouTube channel "PitytheHorses."
Also view the excellent testimony by Elaine Sloan on overcharging that is overlooked by the city.
Video credit: Anthony Speziale

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hilly and dangerous

Night shift
Trudging up hilly 10th Avenue, behind St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center.
New York City's carriage horses live in multistory stables in Hell's Kitchen, up to 2 miles from Central Park. Their daily commutes are treacherous.
Photo courtesy of "Horsefeathers"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Danger ahead

Putting us all in harm's way

This kind of reckless behavior speaks for itself: it is dangerous and it endangers the public safety. All those people around, and the driver surely doesn't have his eyes on the road or his horse.
Video from March 8, 2009, 72nd St. east-west transverse in Central Park.
Courtesy of YouTube member "DriversRunninScared"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Critical acclaim for "Blinders"

**** UPDATE, MARCH 29, 2009 ****
Documentary exposes "the truth behind the tradition"

Manhattan screening March 20
"Blinders," the award-winning documentary by independent filmmaker Donny Moss, is nominated for a Genesis Award--a distinction that recognizes excellence in television, film, print, and the arts for raising public understanding of animal issues. The awards, presented by the Hollywood office of the Humane Society of the United States, will be handed out on March 28, in Los Angeles. "Blinders," which is nominated in the category TV Documentary (Documentary Channel), shows the plight of New York City's carriage horses, who toil in immoderate weather and live in multistory stables as far as 2 miles from Central Park.

The nomination of "Blinders" is great news for Donny Moss, and for the horses! The highly visible Genesis Awards bring the message of his powerful film to a national and international audience. The awards recognize the best of the best. Nominees include "Dogtown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs" (nominated in the category Unscripted Television Series) and "National Geographic Channel's Strange Days on Planet Earth" (TV Documentary).
Learn more about this year's Genesis Awards, which are dedicated to ending the Canadian seal hunt.
(c) Nigel Barker
See the full list of
2009 nominees.

**** "BLINDERS" screening in Manhattan, March 20, 2009! ****
March 20, 7:00 p.m.
New York Film and Video Festival
Village East Cinemas
181-189 2nd Avenue (12th St.)
Tickets - $12

Accolades for "Blinders"
Film Festivals 2008

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The daily grind

If you think the carriage horse in this photo is making pretty good time, you're right! It is clear that they're moving at a brisk clip. The driver has left the park, above the busy roundabout at Columbus Circle. Here they are seen crossing Broadway, and the driver is taking his horse back to the stable (a dreadful commute down to Hell's Kitchen.)

Another driver was seen nearby on Thursday standing up in the carriage for several blocks--tightly clenching the reins--while his horse sped south (this after the driver had nudged the horse out into the middle of a busy intersection to begin the evening rush-hour journey). Standing up may give the driver some sense, anyway, of control. But if a horse should spook in heavy traffic, all bets are off. Horses, carriage drivers, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are in harm's way.
Sometimes the horses are moving so fast that I can't get a photo. That happened last week at 43rd and Eighth Avenue, near Times Square. That horse was flying west on a street with potholes aplenty. The working on pavement day in, day out takes its toll on the horses, who are at risk for laminitis. It's understandably hard on arthritic joints and fragile hooves, equine experts agree.
Enforcement of the industry is sadly lacking, and the Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs are implicated in the sorry state of affairs. By law, carriage horses shall NOT be driven at a pace "faster than a trot." That never happens, right? WRONG!
Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in NYC.

Photo: March 5, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Horses in heavy traffic

Longtime carriage driver Cornelius Byrne has been quoted as saying that garbage trucks are among the things that carriage horses fear most. Unfortunately, the horses' daily commutes put them alongside garbage trucks, emergency vehicles, buses, and wailing fire engines. About 58 seconds in, this short video shows a horse hemmed in between a city bus and gridlocked traffic--while traffic helicopters hover overhead. A dangerous mix.
Video courtesy of YouTube users "HorsesinNYC" and "DriversRunninScared."
Cornelius Byrne's interview with The New Yorker, and more recent news
You can help: Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City

Thursday, February 26, 2009

An outdated and inhumane industry

Includes footage from the documentary "Blinders," by filmmaker Donny Moss
The Humane Society of the United States wants you to know that horse-drawn carriages do not belong on the streets of the nation's busiest city. This inhumane industry endangers horses as well as people.
HSUS supports a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
Tell Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg that you support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
FAX (212) 312-0700

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let the tourist beware

Rule #1: Don't believe everything you're told
New York City purports to welcome tourists with open arms, yet it places the burden of consumer protection squarely on the shoulders of the visitors. A good example is the horse-drawn carriage industry. The Department of Consumer Affairs disregards the common overcharging of tourists by drivers of horse-drawn carriages--and the carriage industry is cash-only. Given free rein to behave badly, this reckless industry takes every advantage.

Look no further than the website of the Horse & Carriage Association of New York. This industry site misleads tourists before they even get on the airplane or step out of the hotel room. It states, "Rides are approximately $34 for a 20-minute ride tour through Central Park." Approximately? Twenty minutes? The law is clear. The legally allowable fare, as written in the Administrative Code (Title 20, Section 380), is $34 for the first half-hour. This is the law, and the rates must be displayed on the carriage (make sure the sign isn't covered up, and do take a look). There is no sales tax on rides!

What gives? The city of New York is not looking out for tourists, a population that apparently is deemed to be an easy target (here for a week, wide-eyed, and then gone, perhaps never to return).

If you have been overcharged for a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, call 311 and report the circumstances. Also file a complaint with the DCA. However, given the DCA's apathy around overcharging of tourists, you may wish to make a complaint to the state Attorney General, Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, at 212-416-8345.

Your willingness to file a complaint will be pivotal in making sure that other tourists don't get overcharged. Help make New York City a tourist-friendly destination.
View real-life examples of tourists being overcharged. Forget about $34, most fares are quoted as $50--and many others are much higher! Read recent testimony about blatant overcharging.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Advocates for horses and consumers

It is a sad state of affairs when the city advocates for industries that blatantly rip off tourists. Thankfully, there are concerned citizens who enthusiastically welcome visitors and go out of their way to help them. Since the city supports the inhumane and potentially fraudulent horse-drawn carriage industry, it's good to know that tourists are finally getting some help in understanding the legally allowable fares for carriage rides.

How would tourists know the fares? Many drivers routinely overcharge and even collect sales tax. These ripoffs are large and small, and they add up nicely (it's a cash-only industry). There's no signpost or literature rack to state the legal fare, which is $34 for the first half-hour. Tourists rely on what they are told by the drivers, who decide each fare on a case-by-case basis.

It is within this context that the mayor just unveiled a slick new online tourist portal. Also, at a recent hearing at City Hall over two bills affecting the horse-drawn carriage industry, officials from NYC & Co. gave a ridiculously flawed assessment of revenue generated by this industry. Tony Avella, sponsor of Intro. 658, could not get a straight answer as to how their absurd reckonings were determined. The fact is that the city derives NO DIRECT REVENUE from this cash-only industry, and visitors do not plan a visit to New York City to take a carriage ride. So tourism revenue is a non-issue here.
*** Action alert *** Please watch the videos "Tourists Overcharged in NYC" or "Tourists Overcharged--SHORT," and read testimony about some of the outrageous fares charged. Then email or write to your City Council member and ask him or her to OPPOSE Intro. 653-A/2007, the industry bill that would reduce industry oversight while giving drivers a raise, and to SUPPORT Intro. 658, Tony Avella's bill that calls for a full ban. Please also email or write to Council Member David Weprin, a city comptroller candidate who supports this industry and its bill, which is rife with financial irregularities. Unless Weprin changes his ways drastically, this is not a man who should be in charge of city monies. Please tell Weprin that you OPPOSE Intro. 653-A. Learn more about it here, in a position statement from the New York City Bar Association.
Also please contact Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, an oversight agency that turns a blind eye to the serious problem of overcharging by the carriage industry. At the recent hearing, a DCA official DID NOT KNOW THE FARES. Shameful, because DCA is one of the primary agencies that oversees this industry. Email Mr. Mintz at: JMintz@dca.nyc.gov

Thursday, February 12, 2009

If they had their druthers...

They'd have "free rein of the city"
Some of you heard at the recent hearing from carriage driver Frank Rodden, who, after all these years, is still talking about his "industry being the most regulated in the city." He's a broken record, as this piece from the New York Times archive shows. If he had his druthers today, I guess tourists would be seeing the sights from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, in a carriage.
All the rules in the world mean nothing if they are not enforced. Bad enough that the horses receive poor and infrequent veterinary care and live in filthy multistory stables. We also have a Department of Consumer Affairs that apparently doesn't even know the legal fare structure for a carriage ride, and shows every indication that it doesn't want to know! Cash only, and a ripoff!
How much is a ride, anyway? Watch "Tourists Overcharged," by YouTube member "HorsesinNYC"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The trickle-down theory of stupidity

Or, "How much is the fare?"
No surprise that the ASPCA cannot do much about the plight of New York's carriage horses. This organization and others have said that New York's industry cannot be made safe for the horses. What is even more troubling is that the agencies charged with industry oversight--namely, the Department of Health and the Department of Consumer Affairs--do next to nothing on this front. Heck, they are effectively sanctioning all kinds of industry misbehavior, from blatant disregard for the regulations that state when and where the horses can and cannot be worked to illegally overcharging the tourists that the city purports to so adore. Thus the city is entrenched in this out-of-control industry up to its eyeballs, from our narcissistic mayor to the police officers who turn a blind eye. Because spooking accidents involving carriage horses almost always involve human injury, a human fatality is inevitable. It's only a matter of time. The other injuries will be from the "Tweeder" politicians getting whiplash, as most of them will be spinning around and pointing the finger of blame at everyone but themselves. And the city will be in the spotlight, since the liability insurance carried by the carriage drivers and companies is negligible. Yikes.
At the well-attended recent public hearing on Intro. 658, Tony Avella's bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages, and Intro. 653, a misguided industry bill that would bring about even LESS oversight, many of us were getting a real lesson in community civics. Imagine our surprise to see such bad behavior on the part of Council Members James Gennaro and G. Oliver Koppell. We heard a DCA representative, Andrew Eiler, stammer when asked about the fare for a 30-minute carriage ride, and increments, and then guess and get them both wrong! How disturbing is it that the DCA apparently doesn't know--or care to know--the fares, because then the department might have to bother itself with problem resolution, or even restitution--the way it does for brides who were ripped off by bad wedding photographers! And the cash-only carriage industry wants a raise!
Related video: Driver Gone Wild (when asked about fares!) *** EXPLICIT *** from YouTube member "HorsesinNYC." Also: statements that were made at the hearing about overcharging and insurance.
Photo credit: AP file photo

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Horses and people in harm's way

A carriage horse spooked recently in Charleston, S.C. What frightened him? A puddle of water. And a well-trained appaloosa named "Mouse" spooked at the presidential inaugural parade, which was delayed as a result. The slam of a car door frightened him. A close call, and he was injured but is recovering. Surely the inauguration is one of the most controlled events in history (and experts were standing by, which is probably why Mouse is still alive). These reports are not surprising. Every week, we read news accounts of highly trained, "bombproof" horses spooking. And this is why horses don't belong in New York City. Having horse-drawn carriages in the city is not safe. It is inhumane.
Update: By most news accounts, Mouse spooked and backed, kicking, into the grill of a truck, after spooking at the sound of car door slamming. A new report says that Mouse has a pet peeve: horse-drawn carriages, and that one had stopped beside him. The idea is distasteful enough to sentient beings. This parade veteran should stay away from New York City. He would be beside himself.
Photo: Kevin Wolf, Associated Press

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Horse in heavy traffic

Why is this driver using his horse as a battering ram? Bad enough that this horse must work in traffic near the Manhattan entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, and even worse that the poor horses are subjected to this commute daily. Four miles, round trip. Did you know that the horses live so far from the park?

Video used courtesy of YouTube user "DriversRunninScared"

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bless his fuzzy li'l heart

From County Antrim to Hell's Kitchen
Word on the street has it that Liam Neeson is moving again, this time to Hell's Kitchen! So smitten was the actor with a carriage horse stable he visited on Manhattan's west side that he said: "I would move in tomorrow!" Granted, it's a fixer-upper, but he has knack for the real estate bargains. (The smaller pic shows his 6,000-foot estate).

Plus, he's got the skills to pay the bills. After a few trips to Home Depot and Lowe's, he'll have the stables looking like home and smelling minty fresh.
His appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" was purely embarrassing. Seems like the ignominious result of a Xanax, a couple of beers, and flack's badly written script. Yikes.
New York City's carriage horses get no daily turnout and live in multistory stables in Hell's Kitchen. No life for a horse.
From the Blogosphere: Joshing Politics; the Central Park Blogger

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A blight on a beautiful city

In the week since Elizabeth Forel's opinion piece (Let carriage horses run free) was published in the New York Daily News, the letters have been pouring in to the newspaper. She raised some fundamental questions, namely, "Aren't we a better, more compassionate people than to continue to allow these horses to be exploited for profit?" Carol D. from Ohio wrote in to say: "Please ban carriage rides. I will not visit New York City again until you stop this inhumane practice." From Ossining, New York, a reader commented: "I get depressed and angry every time I walk by the horses near Central Park." Compassionate people from near and far see that this is wrong. Why do the decision-makers in New York City turn a blind eye to the inhumane treatment of the horses? Why do lawmakers condone such a mismanaged, out-of-control industry?
The ASPCA and Humane Society have deemed New York City's carriage industry to be inhumane. The mayor thinks he knows better? We know he's arrogant, but that is ridiculous.
Tourists by the busloads are deposited at Central Park, where they're likely to be hustled into taking a ride--at any price. Sadly, most of these tourists think the horses live in Central Park.
Photo credit: Donny Moss

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cart horses' plight draws 350

Hundreds in Israel heed call, turn out to help horses
As we saw in so many cities around the world last month on the international day of action against horse-drawn carriages, activists were out in full force. In Tel Aviv, approximately 350 people crowded into a popular venue on December 7 to show support for Hakol CHAI's (Concern for Helping Animals in Israel) campaign to ban the practice of pulling heavy loads through busy city traffic. These horses endure daily horrors, as documented in photos that show the skeletal animals literally being worked to death. Educational outreach at this event was a big success, with people wanting to learn what they can do to help put an end to this misery. Israeli singers Asaf Amdurski, Ram Orion, and Billy Levi performed at the event, which was part of the global coalition Horses Without Carriages International. Read more on the CHAI website.
About Horses Without Carriages International

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fares are negotiable?

"Just be sure to negotiate your price with the driver before you head off," Been There blogger Sissi explains in a post about her recent trip to New York City, where she took a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. Apparently this visitor from the UK found out the hard way that the approved fares--which are regulated by New York City--are widely disregarded by the drivers. Yet another way in which the industry is out of control. The length of a ride is negotiable, but fares are set.
The fare you'll be quoted is a mystery. It almost certainly won't match up with what's legal. See for yourself in the video "Tourists Overcharged in NYC" from YouTube user "HorsesinNYC."
The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs advises individuals to report potential fraud issues to the New York State Attorney General's Office Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau at (212-416-8345).
Photo: Donny Moss. December 19, 2008, a day on which many horses working in a snow storm, against regulations.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Few blankets, few breaks

Some objectivity is needed here. Please add your comments. The horses were out on December 19 IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW, on icy streets. The peaceful demonstration was meant to show that the industry is operating with virtually no meaningful oversight. Trotting the horses on icy roads endangers not only the horses' lives, but human lives as well. This brings to mind the gruesome spooking accident that claimed Spotty's life on January 2, 2006. Three people were hospitalized, one critically injured.
Sadly, the ASPCA's apathy is misinterpreted by the public as endorsement of the industry. The huge organization does, however, remind the public to report violations of the laws.

"ASPCA Reminds Public of Laws Designed to Protect Carriage Horses"