The controversial horse-drawn carriage trade in New York City continues to be the subject of debate and has become an issue in the mayoral contest, which will be decided in November.
Since 2006, every online poll has shown between 75 and 80% of respondents favor a ban of this inhumane and unsafe business. New Yorkers and tourists alike are saying “Enough!” It is the politicians who are holding things up. And if the powers that be do not see fit to do anything about ending operations, at least they should acknowledge and do something about all the horses who get used up.
A new study conducted by the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages shows that over the past eight years, there was a turnover of at least 529 carriage horses who did not have their license renewed by the NYC Department of Health (DoH), the agency charged with oversight of these animals. The only reason horses come off the registry is when they are sold or died.
Some 200 horses are registered with the DoH annually. For 529 to have no accountability is deeply disturbing. This averages out to 71 horses a year over 7 ½ years. The NYC Administrative Code – Section 17-329 does not require the names of buyers if the horse is sold outside New York City as most are and the DoH does not maintain documents or a database containing a list of horses who are no longer in the system.
Not all horses are as fortunate as one named Billy, a former NYC carriage horse. After being sold to a kill buyer at New Holland in Pennsylvania, he was rescued/repurchased by the Coalition in 2010 and is now living out his golden years in peace—appropriately renamed Bobby ll Freedom—at Equine Advocates Sanctuary in Chatham, NY. It is very possible a horse could go either directly or indirectly to the auctions, which are frequented by kill buyers who supply slaughter houses. The Equine Welfare Alliance reports that 176,223 US horses were sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico in 2012 where their meat was processed to be sent overseas for human consumption.
A BILL THAT COULD HAVE HELPED:
In 2011, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages asked Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito to sponsor a bill, Intro 670, that would require that carriage horse owners abide by certain rules when selling their horses – i.e. to be accountable for the horses’ fate. The owner would be required to sell or donate his or her horse to a private individual or sanctuary with a contractual agreement that the animal would be kept as a companion animal, not be sold or employed in another carriage business. The horses could not be sold at auction. The DoH would require complete records. The press conference for the proposed legislation was canceled the night before by Speaker Christine Quinn and the bill subsequently died. Quinn has been a staunch supporter of the carriage trade and has ultimate power in the City Council. Bills do not go anywhere without her support.
Since that time, more than 116 horses – who would have been protected had it passed – have fallen off the rolls to uncertain fate.So where do we go from here? If the powers that be do not see fit to do anything about shutting down this inhumane and unsafe business, at least they should acknowledge and do something about all the horses who get used up. But will they?
Do they care enough about these horses or will they continue to delude themselves into thinking it is a viable tourist attraction.