Multiple Agendas Revealed in Legal Battle over New York Carriage Horse Industry

Most of you have already read about the heated legal battle over the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City, where some groups have been pushing for decades to outlaw carriage rides. On its face, the battle seems to be about whether or not the industry is inherently cruel or dangerous for the horses. But more recently, some facts have surfaced pointing to other interests and agendas that may be fueling the push to banish the carriage industry from New York.

Emily B. Hager authored a story published last week in the New York Times that delves into underlying interests of some who are attempting to ban carriage rides in New York City. A link to the article can be found here.

One issue raised in the Times article are allegations of foul play related to the ASPCA’s involvement in the efforts to outlaw the horse-drawn carriage industry. According to Ms. Hager’s article, Dr. Pamela Corey (chief equine veterinarian for the ASPCA), said her supervisors pressured her to distort her findings about the death of a carriage horse in order to turn public opinion against the carriage industry. After Dr. Corey spoke out, the ASPCA suspended her. Dr. Corey has since filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office, in which she states that she had been pressured on several occasions to slant her professional opinion to help achieve a ban.

Ms. Hager also points out that while the ASPCA is one of the groups leading the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages, it is also one of three entities that regulate the carriage industry in New York. 

The ASPCA’s president, Ed Sayres, is also reported in the Times to have teamed up with Stephen Nislick, chief executive of the development company Edison Properties, to develop a plan to replace carriage rides with electric-powered replicas of antique cars. Sayres and Nislick are reported to have started a nonprofit organization, known as NY-Class, that has collected more than 55,000 signatures backing city ordinances that would end the carriage horse industry in New York. NY-Class was allegedly started up through a $400,000 donation from the ASPCA and a contribution from Mr. Nislick.

With respect to these potential conflicts of interest, Ed Sayres is quoted in the Times as saying, “I don’t see it as a conflict. If we don’t bring forward the risk factor that we are observing, then it would be negligent.”

Real estate developers (including Mr. Nislick) are alleged to be involved in the movement to outlaw the carriage industry because they covet the land on the Far West Side where the horses have long been stabled.  

According to Ms. Hager’s article, some carriage owners acknowledge carrying out a campaign to infiltrate the activist groups and secretly record their strategy sessions. In one recording, Mr. Nislick is said to describe efforts to gain the support of city politicians by giving them campaign contributions. 

The carriage industry is reported to have filed its own complaints with the city and state agencies against the ASPCA and NY-Class.

The Times article includes some stats on drivers’ earnings, which reportedly range from $40,000 to $100,000 annually, depending primarily on whether they own their horses, whether they work the day or night shift, and how bad the weather and economy are.  If you know how much it costs to live in Manhattan, you know that even $100,000 per year before taxes can be hard to live on there. One would think that the last thing the carriage drivers would want to do is abuse or mistreat their horses if their livelihood depended upon them.

These latest allegations are definitely thought-provoking.  One must wonder whether those who donate money to the ASPCA hoping to fund food, medicine, and shelter for unwanted animals know that the Society has spent at least $400,000 on this political campaign.

Also, should the ASPCA still be one of the regulatory bodies governing the NY carriage industry, given the conflicts and allegations that have now arisen?

Finally, what would happen to the horses if those pushing for a ban were successful? According to Dr. Nena Winand, an equine veterinarian from upstate New York who is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, “If we banned the carriage horse industry tomorrow, they would go straight to slaughter. There is no big field out there, there is no one to pay the bills.”

As discussed in this prior post, mistreatment of or cruelty to horses is already illegal in State of New York. Given these latest allegations, this fact does cause one to ponder whether animal welfare is the real impetus behind the movement to outlaw the carriage industry in New York City.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Laura McFarland-Taylor - January 5, 2012 6:02 PM

Ms. Rowe, I am so happy to see you talking about this issue because it is NOT just about the carriage horses. One of the leaders of NY-CLASS has stated that this is their first step in the horse world. They want to do away with any use of a horse - that means no riding, no showing, no working, nothing. Horses are to live in some mythical pasture and loaf away their days. As horse people, we know this is a pipe dream.

Every single horse person MUST get involved in this issue. We must stand together or the RARAs (radical animal rights activists) will pick us off, one at a time.

If you would like more information about the NYC carriage horses, please come to the Facebook page Carriage Horse Facts. You can also visit Blue Star Equiculture, the official retirement home for the carriage horses:

Laura McFarland-Taylor

Abby House - January 10, 2012 2:02 PM

As a horse owner for several decades, I can tell you that the NYC carriage horses are a black mark on NYC. It should, without question, be banned. As far as the horses going directly to slaughter... ah lets find out what happens once they are no longer of use to their greedy, selfish owners. Who will pay the bills then.

Laura McFarland-Taylor - February 12, 2012 3:27 PM

"a black mark"? In what way? There has NEVER been a carriage horse driver cited for abuse of a carriage horse. There has NEVER been a citation for mistreatment, cruelty, etc. Three horses have died in traffic accidents while on duty in over 30 years; seven other horses have died while working in over 30 years. That's 10 horses in over 30 years! I am in no way minimizing the death of any horse, but that is a remarkable record. There is no other riding discipline that can come close to that number.

The New York City carriage horses are some of the most regulated animals in this country. The fact there there has never been a citation for mistreatment or cruelty, even with an awful lot of folks looking for it, speaks volumes. I don't know what kind of riding you do, but I guarantee you, it does not have the record the NYC carriage horses have.

Carriage Horse Lover - March 5, 2012 11:11 PM

Ms. Rowe- Thank you for posting about this issue. You will notice that I use an alias- Carriage Horse Lover. That is because while I don't own or operate a livery in NYC, I do operate a small special events livery, and I am concerned about having my business attacked by the anti-carriage horse people for speaking out in support of the NYC carriage horses and carriage horses everywhere so I use a "Nom de net."

MS. McFarland-Taylor is correct in that some of those involved in the NYC anti-carriage horse campaign ARE out to get carriage driving for hire and other equestrian pastimes banned whereever thay can.

I am following the issue in NYC becuse it is the "test" city for these anti-carriage horse groups. They believe that if they are able to have carriages banned from NYC, they will be able to get them banned else where-- eventually EVERYWHERE.

As for you MS. House- you are simply repeating the same old accusations and lies that the radical anti-carriage horse extremists and the rabid animal rights activists have been repeating for years.

I have faith that the NYC carriage horse owners are very careful to abide by the laws and to care for their valuable horses that enable them to operate a carriage-for-hire service. Only a fool neglects the health and wellbeing of the horses upon he or shee depends to earn a living for them both.

I know that I am very careful to take care of MY carriage horse- and yes I do hire my carriage out and earn money doing so. The money we earn helps care for her and five other semi-retired horses in my care. I don't think there is a single thing wrong with making money while doing something I love, and providing a service that people want.

You say you are a horse owner? How many do you have? What do you do with your horse or horses? Do your ride or drive them, or do they just sit in a pasture bored and without a job?

The NYC carriage drivers have a stellar safety record that ranks up there statistically as one of the safest forms of transportation, if not the safest, in NYC.

You want the carriages banned, and wonder what will happen to the NYC horses if this happens. Well, I would guess that some of the owners will opt to keep their horse and retire it at their own expense. Others may opt to do special events livery for weddings, etc. Still others will probably retire theirs to a retirement sanctuary farm like Blue Star Equiculture. Ohters many sell their horses at private treaty to other carriage liveries elsewhere. These are all good obtions, and ones they SHOULD be able to persue since their horses are their private property just as your horse is yours to "dispose" of as as you wish.

If I can afford the transport costs, should the day ever come that the iconic NYC horse-drawn carriages were banned, I would love to be able to afford one. Such a well-trained and dependable carriage horse would be an asset to my livery, and I would be proud to have a genuine former NYC carriage horse live here.

Ms. Rowe, please take a look at the sites and links recommended by Ms. McFarland-Taylor. They are excellent and informative resources. Again, thank you for exploring the carriage horse situation in NYC.

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