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Re: “UPDATED: Mayor Responds To PETA Carriage Request

Images of horse-drawn carriages ferrying newlyweds and vacationing families down city streets belie the truth of an industry that is a danger to horses and humans alike.

In the fall of 2007, a 12-year-old mare named Smoothie panicked when she heard loud drumming in New York City’s Central Park and galloped onto a sidewalk. As she darted between two poles, the carriage she was harnessed to became lodged. She struggled in vain to keep running, and she eventually collapsed and died. Another horse startled by the same noise bolted into the street and collided with a car.(1)

A year earlier, a horse named Juliet—who had been forced to pull carriages for 17 years in New York City—collapsed in Central Park one night and was beaten by the driver with a whip in an attempt to force her to her feet. An angry crowd stopped him, but police allowed the beating to continue after the driver claimed that a veterinarian recommended it. Juliet died later that night.(2)

Driving Horses to Ill Health
Despite the public outcry over Smoothie’s and Juliet’s tragic deaths (and others before them), little has changed for the 1,000 to 2,000 horses forced to pull carriages in cities across the country.(3)

Because they are constantly walking and standing on hard streets, “lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable” in horses who pull carriages, says veterinarian Holly Cheever. “The problems are worsened by the inexperience of the gross majority of the owners and drivers, who are either incapable of recognizing lameness or are unwilling to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service for a few days.”(4)

The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are also dangerous for horses. Horses walk with their heads lowered, usually at around 3 to 3 1/2 feet above street level, so these animals are “truly ... living a nose-to-tailpipe existence,” according to Cheever.(5)

Weather conditions sometimes prove fatal for working horses. The horses are exposed to bitter-cold and scorching-hot temperatures. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heatstroke can die in just a few hours. Some cities outlaw carriage rides when the temperature reaches a certain temperature, but often the official weather bureau reading does not accurately reflect the temperature on the streets. A study published by researchers from Cornell University found that the air temperature recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the asphalt temperature.(6)

Most cities have only minimal regulations governing working conditions for horses who pull carriages, and these regulations are rarely enforced. In an audit of the New York City carriage industry, the city comptroller found that horses in the field were not examined by a Department of Health and Mental Hygiene veterinarian for an entire year and that during scheduled inspections of the stables, the veterinarian only spent 25 minutes at each location, including the time it took to travel between stables. The comptroller’s audit found that horses on the street did not have ready access to water and had insufficient shade during hot weather and that because of poor street drainage, “the horses are left to stand in pools of dirty water.”(7)

Accidents Waiting to Happen
Horses and heavy city traffic can also be a deadly mix. Despite carriage operators’ claims, most horses are not comfortable working among cars and trucks, and many accidents, injuries, and even deaths—to horses and humans—result from horses who have become “spooked” in traffic. Former carriage driver Angie Pheiffer says, “Anything can spook a horse because a horse has black-and-white vision and can only see two-dimensionally. To a horse, a manhole can look like a bottomless pit.”(8) Dr. Cheever adds, “Horses are herbivores whose unique response to stress is to run their butts off. Because of that, in a split second you can have a horse go from being half asleep to being 1,200 pounds crashing through traffic.”(9) A half-dozen people were sent to the hospital when a carriage horse galloped through Charleston’s historic district, causing the vehicle to hit a curb and tip over.(10)

What You Can Do
People around the world are increasingly recognizing that it’s the carriage industry—not just the horses—taking them for a ride. Pressure from concerned residents has resulted in bans on carriage horses in a growing number of international cities like London, Paris, Beijing, and Toronto as well as in a handful of U.S. cities, including Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Key West, Florida.(11)

Never patronize carriage rides, and explain to family and friends why they shouldn’t either. If your city allows carriages on city streets, propose legislation that will ban it.

1) Anahad O’Connor and Kai Ma, “A Carriage Horse Dies After Bolting Onto a Sidewalk,” The New York Times 15 Sep. 2007.
2) Corey Kilgannon, “For Central Park Carriage Horse, Death Arrives Inelegantly,” The New York Times 16 Sep. 2006
3) Jessica Bennett, “Tradition or Cruelty?” Newsweek.com, 27 Sep. 2007.
4) Holly Cheever, letter to legislator, 1 Sep. 1991.
5) Cheever.
6) Nina Bassuk and Thomas Whitlow, “Evaluating Street Tree Microclimates in New York City,” Proc. 5th METRIA Conference, May 1985.
7) William G. Thompson, “Audit Report on the Licensing and Oversight of the Carriage-Horse Industry by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs,” The City of New York Office of the Comptroller Bureau of Management Audit, 27 Jun. 2007.
8) Lauren Beckham, “Charge Stirs New Debate Over Carriages in City Traffic,” Boston Herald 6 Aug. 1997
9) Bennett.
10) Associated Press, “Six People Hurt in Charleston Carriage Accident,” 14 Jan. 2008.
11) Bennett.

From Peta

Posted by Hello! on April 8, 2009 at 9:04 AM
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