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NYC Carriage Horses: Politics, Cruelty and Hope

On December 4, for the fourth time in six weeks, a horse pulling a carriage stumbled and fell in a Manhattan street in New York City. Heart-wrenching photos and films of the collapsed horse bound in attachments to the carriage and surrounded by bumper-to-bumper traffic were broadcast throughout the world. 

Volunteers stopped to help as the white Percheron struggled to its feet, and an anxious and tearful crowd cheered when he was upright and able to walk. Is this a shining moment in America’s treatment of animals in 2011and the image we want viewed by children worldwide as a guide to humaneness? 

The YouTube caption read, “The horses have been taught to remain still while their drivers untangle them in case of accidents to reduce [not eliminate] risk of injury.”  The need for this “training” alone indicates the expectation and frequency of accidents and the potential risks to the animals.  But, it’s not just the animals. A carriage driver was in a coma after an accident last year, and children have been ejected from the hansom cabs when horses have bolted in fear or have collided with vehicles.

The ASPCA states that neither the horse nor any humans were hurt. Do we believe that the trauma of an animal falling and being pinned to the ground, helplessly trapped by carriage rails and still attached to a buggy has suffered no affect on its body—or its spirit?  And what about the stressful impact on observers?

Still Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a staunch advocate of the industry, says that the horses “…are well treated, and we’ll continue to make sure that they are well treated.” 

Steven Malone of the New York Horse and Carriage Association, which represents the city's 68 carriages, 293 certified drivers and 220 privately owned horses, tells us:  "No horse collapsed. It caught its toe in the pavement, which is quite common. The carriage industry in New York City is such a public institution that a horse can sneeze funny and some activist is in our faces with a camera to post footage to YouTube."

A Huffington Post commenter disagreed, “I own horses and that IS NOT just a slip on a crack in the pavement. I suppose they think that everyone in society are buffoons. Not all!”

Donny Moss, winner of a 2009 Genesis award for BLINDERS, his compelling documentary on the inhumane life of horses who work in the horse-carriage industry in New York, asks:

“How much more suffering must these horses endure and how many more accidents have to take place before NYC takes the lead from other major cities around the world, such as London, Beijing and Toronto, that have taken  these horses off the streets and out of harm’s way?”


Mayor Bloomberg recently declared, “Carriage horses have traditionally been a part of New York City.  The tourists love them, and we’ve used from time immemorial, animals to pull things.” 

That is a tradition that hopefully will change soon. A New YorkTimes article on December 7 entitled, Push to Ban New York Carriage Horses Gains Steam, discusses how animal-protection advocates are growing support for legislation to ban horse-drawn carriages. In fact, two bills have been introduced in the NY State legislature.

 Changing an industry that has been entrenched in NY politics since 1935 will not be easy.  There is the Teamsters Union Local 553, which represents the drivers, workers and business owners that make up the Horse and Carriage Association and contends, “In essence this is an attack on working people, the working people of this industry.”

There are financial and political interests embroiled in the 2013 New York City mayoral race and a slate of contenders who will not be facing an incumbent since Mayor Bloomberg is termed out. Two declared Democratic candidates—Bill deBlasio. NYC’s influential elected Public Advocate, and Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President--have already expressed support for the ban and endorsed the proposal to replace the antiquated horse-drawn carriages with vintage electric carriages which replicate various early model cars. Unfortunately, so far they are not the frontrunners in polls.

Another Mayoral hopeful is Christine Quinn, current Speaker of the City Council, and the leading Democratic contender according to an October 2011 poll.  Quinn was reported to have raised $2.7 million in campaign funds by July 13, 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal

However, Christine Quinn, like Bloomberg, has supported the carriage industry. Although she is proposing a bill to increase veterinary oversight for the horses, some animal advocates believe this is merely a political tactic to delay any major political confrontation over a ban until after the election.

Activist Donny Moss questions the political and financial relationship between Quinn and Steve Nislick, CEO of Edison Properties, a real estate company, and co-president of NY-CLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets), a non-profit group that was started by Nislick and Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA, and reports it has collected more than 66,000 signatures on a petition to phase out the city’s horse-drawn-carriages. NY-CLASS was given $250,000 by the ASPCA in 2008 to produce a prototype of an environmentally friendly electric vintage car to replace the horse-drawn carriages. According to the NY CLASS website on Oct. 19, 2011, “Right now, the horse-replacements exist only as foot-long models…” But we are assured that legislation to phase out carriage horses would allow them to “…be replaced with full-size versions in the next few years.”

Moss asked in a recent flyer:  “How can Council Members vote to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric vintage cars if they’ve never seen a prototype?  Why is Steve Nislick of NY-CLASS one of Christine Quinn’s top fundraisers when she has killed all legislative efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages and has thwarted every meaningful animal protection bill introduced at City Hall since she became Speaker?  Why did Steve Nislick use NY-CLASS to endorse Christine Quinn's bill that overturns the law mandating an animal shelter in every borough when NY-CLASS was founded to take the horses off the streets?”


Donny Moss contends that Steve Nislick has a conflict of interest in that he would like to see horse-drawn carriages taken off the streets, but he cannot advocate for a ban because putting public pressure on Christiine Quinn would compromise his relationship with her. The success of his business depends in part on having a good relationship Quinn, who has the power to influence which real estate developments are approved in NYC.  At the moment, Edison Properties is working to build a 407-unit condo in Quinn’s district. 

The horse-drawn carriage industry also alleges a conflict of interest, stating that Edison Properties is seeking to shut down the horse-drawn carriage industry because the four 1920’s tenement buildings where the horses spend their nights in dank 8’x 10’ stalls are now prime real estate that would become available if a ban were passed.  All four stables are located in Quinn’s current Council district.

Although Nislick denies interest in the land, there has been a formal complaint filed with the NY State Attorney General, the Mayor’s Office, the NYC Dept. of Investigations, and the Inspector General of the NYC Dept. of Health by Stephen Malone of the Horse and Carriage Association. The complaint alleges a “glaring conflict of interest” in that “Ed Sayres is both the president and CEO of ASPCA and the co-president of NY-CLASS.  In addition to subsequent use of facilities, vehicles, resources and personnel, the ASPCA gave NY-Class $250,000 at the time of NY-CLASS’s founding in 2008

Malone also explains that the ASPCA is one of the three agencies—along with the Health Department and Bureau of Consumer Affairs--that oversees and enforces laws pertaining to the horse-carriage industry and has openly expressed its support of a ban.

However, the ASPCA has staunch defenders in regard to its work.  D. Verret, a prolific commenter on issues regarding the carriage-horse industry, writes, “I’m not giving ASPCA a pass on the appearance of impropriety, BUT it does not negate all the good work they do.”

Donny Moss wrote:

(1)  Why is NY-CLASS soliciting $5 contributions for the prototype if the ASPCA gave them $250,000 and the list of supporters on their website consists of some of the wealthiest real estate developers?

(2)  If NY-CLASS motto is "stop horse abuse" and they supposedly want horse-drawn carriages banned, then why do they refuse to support the bill introduced at the state level to ban horse-drawn carriages?

 “If we don't have a prototype  after four years, then when will NY-CLASS produce and roll out an entire fleet of electric vintage cars?, Moss asks.


Following the tragic collapse and death of Charlie, a 15-year-old draft horse, on Oct. 23, 2011, as he was heading to Central Park pulling a carriage, the New York City Council’s paltry response was that it would introduce legislation requiring the Health Department to create a list of independent veterinarians to provide exams twice a year and certify that the horses in the carriage industry are healthy enough to work. The legislation purportedly would remove any “financial relationship” between members of the horse-carriage industry and the veterinarians who currently perform the mandatory check ups.

That didn’t happen. The ASPCA announced that they want to add more reforms.  But  it is doubtful it would have matter much to the horses that are out pounding the streets of NY for at least nine hours a day in exhaust fumes, crammed between cars blasting their horns, aggressive cab drivers, and often on slippery streets or without water for prolonged period on hot days.

Donny Moss says, “No amount of regulation or enforcement, can make the operation of horse-drawn carriages humane or safe in midtown Manhattan. Reform has never worked.  The horses are in as bad shape now as they’ve ever been.”

His contention seems supported by the fact that Charlie had only been pulling carriages for 20 days and had supposedly received a clean bill of health from a veterinarian after he was bought at auction.  Two more carriage horses have suffered injuries since Charlie’s death, in addition to the Percheron who fell as he walked along Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street and 5th Avenue on December 4.  Moss says, “The ASPCA and NY-CLASS should be focused on a ban, not reforms or on replacing carriages with electric vintage cars that don’t exist.”

There are three agencies currently responsible for the health and, supposedly, humane treatment of the carriage horses, the ASPCA, along with the City’s Health Dept. and Department of Consumer Affairs.  So, why can’t the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), one of the most prominent animal-protection organizations in the U.S. and headquartered in New York, stop the cruelty in an industry directly under its auspices?

The ASPCA is having its own problems over the death of Charlie, whose final fall to the streets of Midtown brought worldwide attention to the cruelty of forcing horses to pull carriages for hours every day through the congested streets of New York City.

Dr. Pamela Corey, director of equine veterinary services for the ASPCA was suspended without pay after “clarifying” comments she first made about the cause of Charlie’s death.  Her first report stated, “…Charlie was forced to work in spite of painful maladies, and these particular health issues can be difficult to diagnose because draft horses are by nature a stoic breed, not displaying signs of pain until they are severe.”

In its Oct. 31 release, the ASPCA stated, “Dr. Corey determined it [Charlie] was not healthy enough for a career in an urban carriage business…a gross necropsy report indicates the horse was suffering from pain due to pronounced chronic ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth.”

On Nov. 3, Dr. Corey issued a correction to her original ASPCA statement to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, stating, “…there was no evidence Charlie was experiencing any pain,” according to DVM Newsmagazine.

Dr. Corey stated that she was under pressure when she issued her first statement; and at a November 10 press conference, Teamsters Local 553, Joint Council 16 and the Horse and Carriage Association of New York City demanded Corey’s reinstatement, claiming that the ASPCA had coerced Dr. Corey to issue an opinion that supports their anti-carriage position.

However, reportedly, in her official statement to the Department of Health, in which she “corrected and clarified” the earlier ASPCA version, Dr. Corey stated, “We have the capability and authority to ensure that such horses receive the proper care that they need and we are satisfied that they do.”


An op-ed by the editor of the NY Post, on August 8, entitled The ASPCA’s Dead Horse, states, “ Mayor Bloomberg has refused to back a ban that would put hundreds of New Yorkers -- and their nags -- out of work.” 

 “If anyone wants to destroy something that is part of New York’s heritage and that tourists love,” Bloomberg said, “you should remind those people that …we pay municipal employees with money pumped in by visitors who delight in carriage rides.”

The NY Times reports that the licensed carriage-horse industry brings in about $15 million a year, according to city officials. 

But a New York commenter retorts,

“Can someone get Bloomberg a calculator and some truth serum?  The city does not derive ANY direct revenue from this cash industry. He only gets away with the propaganda because people let him.  Now he says NYC pays municipal workers’ salaries as a benefit of the carriage industry, a cash-only business…”

And Justin in NY writes,

“Carriage horses are a sad part of NYC tourism.  These horses are treated very poorly and kept in “cells”, not even stables.  They are forced to perform under unbearable conditions, regardless of their health, and that’s the norm. You do not need to be a “radical animal rights activist” to deplore the treatment of NYC carriage horses. Take a closer look, there is a lot more unraveling than a glossy postcard. And you know what? Tourists will still flock to NY, carriage horses or not. Find an alternative which does not involve abuse. If dogs were treated this way, these business owners would have been arrested long ago.” 

D. Verret comments on November 14 that Bloomberg’s daughter “…is riding the circuit now (I believe hunters/jumpers at the Grand Prix level)…hardly unknowledgeable about equine welfare issues and costs. Problem is this is about economics…not equine welfare. And don’t kid yourself that Bloomberg doesn’t know about space and real estate in NYC.”


On November 21, 2011, Horseback Magazine posted, NYC Carriage Drivers to File Formal Complaint with Attorney General against ASPCA, which states:

“The Horse and Carriage Association of New York City will be filing formal complaints today with the NY State Attorney General’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, the NYC Department of Investigation, and with the Inspector General of the NYC Department of Health. These complaints are being levied against the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (known as the A.S.P.C.A.) and its affiliated lobbying group, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (known as NY-CLASS).

The complaints allege, “…what may be the improper exchange of money and resources between the ASPCA and NY-CLASS. Ed Sayres is both the president and CEO of the ASPCA and the co-president of NY-CLASS. In addition to subsequent use of facilities, vehicles, resources, and personnel, the ASPCA gave NY-CLASS $250,000 at the time of NY-CLASS’s founding in 2008.”

The complaint also alleges a possible conflict of interest concerning, “…the ASPCA’s Humane Law Enforcement Division’s primary duty as a law enforcement agency, as required by its NY State Charter and by NYC Administrative Code, to oversee and enforce laws pertaining to our industry, while the secondary activities of the ASPCA seek to eliminate our industry altogether.”

“I don’t see it as a conflict,” ASPCA’s president, Ed Sayres, said recently, “If we don’t bring forward the risk factor that we are observing, then it would be negligent.”

The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in conjunction with In Defense of Animals, contends that many of the accident or “near misses” are not being made public. “Six of the last seven incidents involving carriage horses were made known to the public by the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.”


The NY Times article ends with a quote by Dr. Nena Winand, a NY Veterinarian and member of the American Society of Equine Practitioners, who says, “If we banned the carriage horse industry tomorrow, they would go straight to slaughter. There is no big field out there and no one to pay the bills.”

A commenter named Susan states, “Unfortunately, it’s common knowledge that the carriage-trade industry uses the slaughter pipeline as a place to obtain cheap horses and “retire” them at the end of their productivity.  I have personally heard from a party to the [carriage-horse] trade in NY, if the trade is discontinued, they’ll send the horses to slaughter. This is nothing more than emotional blackmail.  I have also seen carriage horses that came off in chargeable neglect condition. That does not mean all do; it just means that the posters here claiming ideal conditions are exaggerating, at best, and pushing an agenda, at worst….Surely folks know how rampant slaughter has been for carriage horses over the years.  This is a good time to let people see data on where the horses go”

Janet Schultz commented on November 21, 2011  “Quite bad timing then that Animals Angels watched a trailer of one of these carriage businesses dropping off one of its carriage horses at the New Holland auction – underweight and with newly rasped left front hoof. Seems the protection of the horses is not quite so protective after all.”

But Mayor Bloomberg assured us that, the horses “…are well treated, and we’ll continue to make sure that they are well treated.” 


It is time for animal lovers and those with safety concerns for both the horses and humans to demand a ban this archaic and barbaric practice of horses pulling carriages “nose to tailpipe” through exhaust laden, slippery, hazardous streets in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They trip, slip, fall, are hit by cars, bolt and run into traffic, and one recently was crushed under a truck.  They live in cells where they can barely turn around and without enough bedding for comfort.

The State bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC is S5013 in the NYS Senate and A7748 in the NYS Assembly. It is referred to as the bill that PROHIBITS THE OPERATION OF HORSE DRAWN CABS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

Since 2006, every poll that has asked if the NYC carriage business should be banned has resulted in at least 75% of respondents voting YES.

The Daily News published an article on November 19, entitled, Calls Grow to Ban Carriage Horses, but Owners Defend Iconic Rides, including a poll.

Final Result: 85% say YES to a ban; 13%, NO, 1%, Not Sure. 

Wall Street Journal asked in a poll "Should NYC ban horse-drawn carriages?"

Results were 76.2% YES and 23.8 NO. 


The bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC is S5013 in the NYS Senate and A7748 in the NYS Assembly. It is referred to as the bill that PROHIBITS THE OPERATION OF HORSE DRAWN CABS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK.

Please help us make this petition viral. Sign it if you have not done so already and pass it on to friends and colleagues. Click Here or go to


New York State Senator Tony Avella has renewed his call on Mayor Bloomberg to ban the barbaric carriage rides, which are a hazard to horses and to public safety. Please join him and click here to contact the mayor and New York City lawmakers now to urge them to support Intro. Bill 86, which would replace horse-drawn carriages with eco-friendly (and horse-friendly) classic cars.

Watch:  Horse Drawn Cruelty


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