Every morning on my way to our office I pass a stream of New York City carriage horses on their way from their stables on the west side of Manhattan to Central Park. As I watch them walk up the 10th Avenue pavement, dodging cars, buses and trucks, I feel angry at the lack of quality of life for these beautiful animals. For many people, these horses represent the city and its charm, but the horses’ lives are less than ideal. It’s true that carriage horses are beautiful, and the clop of their hooves can be a nostalgic reminder of a simpler time, but these horses aren’t meant to mingle with cars and trucks in New York City traffic jams.
New York City carriage horses often work 9-hour days, 7 days a week, spending the rest of their time in small stables. Veterinarians agree that horses should have daily access to pastures for optimal health- something carriage horses rarely, if ever, receive. Instead, carriage horses are suffering from respiratory illnesses related to inhaling vehicle exhaust, early lameness from long hours and heavy loads, and weather-related issues due to exposure to extreme heat and cold. Furthermore, many horses have become spooked in traffic, injuring themselves and others.
Though SPCA International isn’t working directly on this issue, it is certainly on our radar and we are paying attention to the work of other groups dedicated to the issue. One such group, NYClass sponsored a bill to improve conditions for carriage horses in New York. The bill will keep carriage horses out of chaotic heavy traffic areas, guarantee horses a safe retirement, increase stall sizes, and includes many other commonsense reforms that will drastically improve conditions for New York City carriage horses.
This is a start, but the truth of the matter is that passengers can still request to go to destinations like Times Square and the Theater District; heavily trafficked areas not suitable for horses. The end goal of this movement is to eradicate the use of horse-drawn carriages in New York City for good.
Another group, Partnership to Ban Horse Carriages Worldwide, is… you guessed it- working to ban horse-drawn carriages around the world. This group has collected a wealth of information about the issue and includes links to a number of local petitions to end the practice or improve conditions for carriage horses.
If you want to get involved, there are a few ways you can help.
- Don’t hire a horse-drawn carriage
- If you see a horse in distress take a photo or video, including the carriage plate number if possible. You can share with one of the organizations listed above, or just post to your own social media. As we know, a picture is worth a thousand words!
- Learn more about the issue
- Sign a petition
- Contact lawmakers to express your opinion