By Julie Hauserman
The sudden death of a New York City carriage horse on October 23 is once again shining a light on the inhumane plight of horses who have to live in multistory warehouses without pasture, endure harsh pavement and loud noises, and breathe exhaust from car tailpipes for eight or nine hours every day.
The horse, Charlie, collapsed in the street on the way to work in Central Park. A necropsy is being performed to determine the cause of death.
“The inhumane and dangerous horse-drawn carriage industry has no place in our modern cities,” says Patrick Kwan, New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “Fortunately, we now have a viable alternative.”
(Re)enter the horseless carriage
New “horseless carriage” vintage-replica electric cars are now in production, thanks to New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS). Car maker Jason Wenig of The Creative Workshop designed the cars to compliment the charm of Central Park. If all goes well, the first vintage cars could be on the streets for test drives in a few months.
Eco-friendly and animal friendly
“The new eco-friendly cars will give tourists a neat way to move around the city, preserve the jobs of the carriage horse drivers, and give horses a break,” Kwan said.
Unlike horse-drawn carriages, the electric vehicles will comply with government safety regulations and will be registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
In 2007, the New York City Comptroller's Office released an independent audit documenting the inhumane conditions in which carriage horses live and work. The report stated that horses are forced to stand in their own waste and lack adequate water and protection from the elements. A follow-up report in 2009 found the industry was still failing to meet these most basic of needs. Current regulations also do not protect horses from being sent toslaughter after they are “spent” by the industry.
During the past ten years, there have been a number of accidents and deaths involving carriage horses in New York and in other American cities. Citing the issues of safety and animal welfare, Paris, London, Beijing, and several U.S. cities have banned carriage horses from their streets.
Kinder, safer, and still vintage
“The jobs that have been provided by the carriage horse industry can easily be replaced by these new vintage-replica cars,” Kwan said. “There are already carriage horse drivers who say they are willing to switch to the new cars, which will keep our streets safer and provide a humane alternative to using horses.”