The welfare of horses used to pull carriages in New York City is once again back in the spotlight after a disturbing incident on February 21, in which a horse collapsed near Tavern on the Green in Central Park.
According to witnesses, a horse pulling one of the ubiquitous carriages seen in Central Park, began breathing heavily before collapsing around 10 am in front of the famed restaurant.
Animal rights organizations are again calling for a serious investigation by the city into their treatment.
Last summer, another horse named “Norman” collapsed outside a midtown nightclub, prompting NYCLASS, a local animal rights advocacy group to call for an investigation and new guidelines regulating the operators of horse drawn carriages in the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had proposed measures that would have tightened regulations and increased funding for stables, but the City Council blocked the effort in response to pressure from labor organizations and stable owners.
Now, a new horse, “Max”, has rekindled the debate over the care and treatment of these animals.
A spokesperson for NYCLASS said “Horses don’t just collapse. Something happened and the city should get to the bottom of it and make sure it never happens again.”
Witnesses say Max began to breath heavily and then fell over. Several took pictures of the distressed animal, as police arrived on the scene to investigate.
They left after the animal regained its footing with the help of the driver. There was no report filed with the Police Department.
One carriage driver familiar with the incident, Cristina Hansen, says “Max tripped and fell, it happens sometimes.
The way he fell with his legs under him, he wasn’t able to get up without Chris, the driver, unhooking him from the carriage, which he did. Max then rolled over on its side, stood up and was fine.”
The spokesperson for NYCLASS continued, saying “They should conduct an immediate investigation into the health and whereabouts of this horse, including allowing an independent vet to examine the animal.”
While the City Council has blocked Di Blasio’s proposal, which would limit where and under what conditions carriages could operate, as well
as providing funds to update and maintain stables, they have said they are working on their own measures to ensure the safety of New York City’s horses.
In addition to being a carriage driver herself,Christina Hanson, is also a spokesperson for the New York Carriage Industry. She was the point person for last summer’s incident when “Norman” fell down in front of a group of late night club patrons.
In that case, she said that the animal “He didn’t collapse, he tripped himself. He’s kind of a klutz.” That incident did not yiled an official police report either.
Horse drawn carriages are a common sight in midtown Manhattan and Central Park where thousands of tourists hire them every year to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.
Many animal rights activists believe that the industry is not sufficiently regulated in how it cares for the horses in their fleet, and that using horses in this fashion is inhumane in such a congested and stressful environment.
So do you think that horses should be used to pull heavy carriages in the city? Have you ever cared for horses? Share your thoughts and stories with us here.