My brother-in-law, Adam Rowe, recently asked me what I thought about the ASPCA’s and other activist groups’ recent attempts to pass legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriage rides in New York City.  The activists claim that the industry as whole should be banned because the horses are allegedly overworked and deprived of proper food, water, and shelter.  If you go to the Carriage Horses-NYC blog, a site maintained by one such activist group, you see a woman standing next to a horse in harness and holding a heart-shaped sign bearing the slogan, "Give These Horses Their Freedom."

My first reaction to the activists’ cause was, assuming at least some carriage operators treat their horses well, why would they want to ban the trade as a whole? The draft horses have a job and are being put to use, which in my mind is preferable to the dubious fate of the "unwanted horse", which many of these horses might become if they cannot be used for surrey rides.  Due to the recent ban on horse slaughter in the U.S., many in the horse industry predict that unwanted horses will be now be euthanized and disposed of, or shipped to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.  See USA Today article on subject.  The activists (and many other horse lovers, myself included) would probably prefer that the carriage horses be released into vast green pastures to run free for the rest of their lives (which can be 30 years or longer).  However, the activists trying to pass this legislation seem short on ideas on who will take care of the horses once they are "given their freedom."

Another thought is that the mistreatment of carriage horses is already illegal in New York.  According to New York law (McKinney’s Agriculture & Markets Law Sect. 353), a carriage driver is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if he "overdrives, overloads, tortures or cruelly beats" a horse or allows another to do so. He is also liable if he deprives a horse of "necessary sustenance, food or drink," or neglects or refuses to furnish a horse such "sustenance, food, or drink".  I assume that if a particular carriage driver is charged under this criminal statute, his business will not flourish for long. 

Perhaps the most humane thing the activists can do is involve local law enforcement in the investigation of the carriage drivers whom they suspect are guilty of animal cruelty, and let the carriage operators who properly treat their horses continue to do business in peace.

  • Roxanne Delgado

    ASPCA supports the ban for many reasons. it can’t operate humanly on the streets of NYC and can not be effectively monitored. NYC comptroller audit report also criticize the lack of oversight with horses standing in their own manure and pulling many large people. Lastly the police does not respond to complaint and the ASPCA must witness the abuse to take action. the regulations only exist in paper

  • Tabatha

    I take issue with some things you say about the carriage issue in NYC. For one thing – I wonder if you know about the high turnover of horses in the industry – and then wonder again if you know where all of these horses go. Do you really think they all get retired to a peaceful idyllic farm someplace? Isn’t it more than likely that they are actually going to slaughter – being brought to the auctions by their owners. This argument “what will happen to the horses” does not hold water since most people who ask that have no idea what is currently happening to them.

    And as for being short on ideas about what will happen to these horses. Just who are you referring to? Have you sent an e-mail to The Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages to ask this question? There have actually been several legitimate proposals to take the horses en masse (200 or so) to sanctuaries – although i would assume that some of them will go to responsible individuals. Did you really think we would have gotten involved with this proposed legislation without first working out these kinks? The second part of CM Tony Avella’s legislation cannot be introduced until there is a hearing. That will address the disposition of horses (they are currently privately owned) and also job loss. So, Alison, not sure if you live in NYC, but it sounds like you do not have all the information you need to make such charges.

  • Dorothy Sullivan

    We Have the same problem here in Saint Augustine Florida. Our horses are out in 100 degree weather hauling around tourist who are able to take trains around the city.
    Our horses are forced to endure some kind of contraption rubbing against their rear legs and backside because some tourists were offended by the fact that the horses left manure in places. Our country has become oblivious to cruelty in any form..
    I would be glad to sign any petition to have these practices stopped.

    Sincerely. Dorothy

  • Kristine L.

    No!!!! What next from these uneducated ASS…PCA members?
    How can they be standing in poop… if they are not being feed?
    Let’s ban the police officers that stand in the streets all day directing traffic. No food or Water! Please…I think ASPCA members should be banned from standing in their own poop!

  • Gail Ruffu

    Hi, I believe the ASPCA was founded primarily due to the founders concern for the horses he saw working in the streets and which he observed being terribly mis-treated. This would have occurred well prior to the invention of the steam and gas engines but horses used for profit should always have the extra attention and care of all of us all of the time, horses used for racing should be most especially included in this “working class” type of horse.

    Ms. Crazybouthosses

  • Gerald

    They don’t know just what it is like to have a ride.They proble affraied of horses. If they know anything about horses its bad for them to just stand around. Let them stand around to long you can’t do anything with them They going to shot them or is that humane.

  • Gerald

    Are they going to stop the horse races and the polo games,etc. Plus the trail rides. With me I love the western rides and a nice ride in a carrige ride in a park with someone you love. Plus you got the adventure of a horse under you. To me they are stupid and they don’t know how to enjoy life. Back were I grow up at they stop a church from haing a fundraising that they done for years. That was turtle soup supper. they said it was humane to the turtles now they get run over by cars onthe roads. Gerald

  • Vicky

    Being a horse owner and care taker for over 25 years i can see that these horses are dispirited and are not even given so much as a full fresh clean water bucket while they stand in the heat trussed up with two wooden poles. So, perhaps if you stood out there with them and were deprived of water (after all we can’t have them pee in front of a customer) for hours might have a different view. as for getting with law enforcement…that’s been tried…i have even reported when a horse was being whipped…nothing was done at all…

  • Annabell

    Vicky…youre a flipping LIAR. There are 2 troughs at the park and EVERY carriage carries TWO buckets! A horse being whipped…I sincerely doubt it. But, I don’t doubt that you are in fact a fanatical animal rights nut from right here in NYC spinning lies…NOT a horse owner. I’m sure you’ve never so much as led a horse in your dispicable life. LYING sack of horse manure!

    [adult language edited by moderator]

  • jjnyc

    I agree with Vicky. I live 1/2 block from Central Park in the 70s and these horses are overworked and whipped. The drivers are on their cell phones texting or completely not paying attention to the horse and whipping them. They trot the horses down hill on 77th into Central Park and you can tell the horse is struggling to keep from sliding on the pavement and its knees are overstressed from trying to keep himself and the carriage from careening down the hill.

    The idea of carriage rides themselves isn’t inhumane. It’s the fact that these carriage drivers don’t know anything about horses and don’t care about the well-being of their horses. I see them all the time parked on the side of the street WITHOUT WATER or the red buckets are turned over.

    I can completely corroborate Vicky’s comment.

  • kemmer

    The comments from people saying that they know what is going on with the horses and drivers, how can you whip a horse, being on the phone and drive at the same time can be possible ( you need one hand for the phone, one hand for the whip and two hands to steer the horse) 4 hands that’s a lot of hands to drive. Going down 77th street running inside the Central Park? That’s impossible, actually I seeing drivers using the brakes on the carriages to hold the weight of the wagon going down hill. People please get the real facts before you make a comment, know your subject is good, don’t be a clown.