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NYC Carriage Horses Forced to Work Despite Shutdown

On Saturday, August 27, 2011, a passionate e-mail was sent from NYC to activists and animal lovers all over the nation by Donny Moss, filmmaker and winner of a 2009 Genesis award for BLINDERS, his documentary on the horse-carriage industry in New York and the inhumane conditions under which the horses work and live. Donny wrote:

Several hours ago, portions of NYC were evacuated for the first time in history, and the largest public transportation system in the country was shut down due to Hurricane Irene. With conditions deteriorating, Mayor Bloomberg implored NYers to stay home for our own safety and so that emergency vehicles can easily navigate the streets. Downpours occurred throughout the day.

In spite of all of the above and the law which clearly states that carriage operators cannot work during "ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions," dozens of horse-drawn carriage operators were working as of 4:30 p.m.

“If history repeats itself, the horses will be forced to make the long, treacherous trip through the streets of midtown back to the ‘stables’ when the storm intensifies.”

Donny’s frustration and anger focus on two entities—the ASPCA and NY City Hall— which he claims have failed repeatedly to act to stop a tradition that has no place in contemporary NY streets with bumper-to-bumper traffic and recurrent injuries that maim and kill the horses. He continues:

As usual, the ASPCA, which enforces humane laws in NYC and collects an untold amount of money from donors in the name of helping the carriage horses, allowed the carriage drivers to leave the stables this morning and to work all day in the wet, slippery streets in spite of the law.”

At City Hall the industry has been protected by two people who feign concern but have betrayed the voters and animals repeatedly – Mayor Bloomberg, who says that carriages are good for tourism, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is beholden to the pro-carriage Queens democratic machine. Even if she didn't have this allegiance, she would still have blocked the bill to ban this cruel exploitation of helpless animals because she won't challenge the Mayor.  (What happened to checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches?).

“Bloomberg & Christine Quinn have stripped City Hall of democracy, and the horses are just a few of the many victims.”

Donny Moss has created a chilling video posted on YouTube, which shows horses pulling carriages in ice and snow, competing with rushed city drivers and emergency vehicles in snarled traffic, and he asks, “Why doesn’t the ASPCA stop them…?”

Another of his films, Carriage horses in ice and snow storm, shows a heart-wrenching horse and carriage hit by a taxi, other accident scenes in NYC streets, and the bodies of horses being scooped up by snow plows

The Humane Society of the United States agrees with Donny Moss.

Michael Makarian of HSUS speaks about “Horse Drawn Cruelty,” and says, “Many people may think of horse-drawn carriages as quaint or romantic, but this is anything but romantic for the horses.” The film comments that it is “nose to tailpipe” weaving in and out of traffic, taxis and tourists, and the horses don’t always make it out alive. Makarian states, “It is a recipe for disaster.”

These carriage horses are forced to work in NYC in temperatures that range from 100 degrees in the summer to zero in the winter. “Many of them are elderly and the law states they should work only 9 hours a day, but it is not enforced,” states HSUS. When they finally are returned to the stables, they are placed in small stalls where they barely have enough room to lie down and not enough bedding to be comfortable.

The ASPCA’s website states:

“As the primary enforcer of New York City’s carriage horse laws—with firsthand knowledge of ongoing problems and violations—the ASPCA has concluded that neither our city’s environment nor the current law can provide horses with the fundamental necessities to ensure their safety and well-being.”

Mayor Bloomberg and the NY City Council:

But at a hearing on April 27, 2010, to phase out this horrific practice, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stated, “I have talked to the ASPCA and our health board and they have convinced me that these animals are treated humanely…” City Councilman James Gennaro stated that the ASPCA testified they have never issued a citation to the horse-drawn-carriage industry for animal cruelty. The ASPCA was not present at the vote”.

Donny Moss asks, “If the ASPCA is opposed to horse-drawn carriages in NYC, then why do they allow lawmakers to protect the industry by suggesting that the ASPCA supports it?”

In watching these videos, it is hard to believe that allowing horses to be mangled in collisions with trucks, taxis, and other vehicles in bumper-to-bumper traffic could NEVER have warranted a citation for a violation of animal cruelty.

And, with all the hype about possibly the worst storm since 1938 wreaking unpredictable destruction on subways, buildings and humans in NYC, why would the ASPCA allow these vulnerable horses to be out in the streets?

Donny Moss sent photos in his e-mail and pleads, “These are pictures of horses working in the rain at about 3:00 p.m. today (Aug. 27). Please share this information with your friends who donate money to animal organizations and/or who vote in NYC.

And he asks, “How many more injuries and deaths have to occur before NYC bans the inhumane horse-drawn carriage industry, like London, Beijing, Paris and Toronto?”

Readers can view the videos and write their opinions to:

Ed Sayres

Stacy Wolf, Esq. ASPCA
Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel
Humane Law Enforcement

Pamela Corey DVM
Director of Equine Veterinary Services
Humane Law Enforcement


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
FAX (212) 788-2460

Learn more on Donny Moss’ website


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