Thursday, December 18, 2008

Help Protect Carriage Horses During the Holidays

Tourists travel year-round to Central Park to ride in one of New York’s legendary horse-drawn carriage, but the future of this industry is the subject of a highly charged debate. Earlier this year, the documentary Blinders helped raise awareness of the plight of NYC's carriage horses. taking viewers on a behind-the-scenes look at the truth behind the tradition.

Carriage operators say that horse-drawn carriages should stay because they are a beloved symbol of New York City that bring in tourist dollars. Advocates for animals say the industry should be banned because it’s inhumane and unsafe. They believe Hollywood has romanticized horse-drawn carriages and claim that life on congested city streets is anything but romantic for these nervous animals that are easily spooked.

This holiday season the ASPCA reminds the public of city and state laws designed to protect carriage horses:
  • Carriage horses cannot be worked when the temperature reaches 18 degrees and below.
  • During the winter, horses must be blanketed while awaiting passengers.
  • Carriage horses cannot be driven faster than a trot.
  • Carriage horses can only be worked nine hours during any 24-hour period.
  • Horses must be given a rest period of at least 15 minutes for every two hours they work.
  • Fresh water must be made available to them during their rest periods.
  • Horses must be provided with enough food and water and allowed to eat and drink at reasonable intervals while they are working. (Carriage horse drivers may carry water on the carriage or make use of troughs in the park. The law does not specify how to provide water--only that it be provided.)
  • Horses cannot be worked when they are lame or suffer from a physical condition, illness or condition that makes them unsuitable for work.
  • The law prohibits “abuse “of carriage horses which means physical maltreatment or failure to provide the care required by the regulations.
  • Horses are prohibited from working during “adverse weather conditions,” which means any condition that is hazardous to the health and safety of the horse, driver or the public. This includes, but is not limited to, ice, snow, heavy rain and other slippery conditions.
  • Carriage horses are not allowed on bridges or in tunnels.
  • Carriage horse operators must obey traffic laws. This includes traffic lights, signs, prohibitions on U turns, etc.
In addition to the New York City code and rules, state law makes cruelty to horses a crime. Cruelty means knowingly causing injury or death to a horse, or allowing someone else to do so.

Reports of suspected animal cruelty should be made to the ASPCA at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450, or

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