A group that opposes horse-drawn carriage use in New York City on animal welfare grounds is proposing that the carriage industry be placed under the jurisdiction of the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. However, others oppose the change on grounds that it could endanger the horses.
In 2014, the nonprofit New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) called for a citywide ban on horse-drawn carriage ban. Since then the city, carriage industry operators, and animal advocates have debated over where—or if—horse-drawn carriages should operate.
Currently, the New York City Health Department and the New York Police Department (NYPD) regulate the city’s carriage industry.
The latest NYCLASS proposal stems from a Taxi and Limousine commissioner’s questions about how the health department monitors how many hours horses work, how stables are constructed and maintained, and how carriage drivers perform duties.
“We know of one case where a horse collapsed in the street, and we have no idea how many hours that horse was worked; we know that repeatedly carriages are overloaded and that drivers force horses to turn around into oncoming traffic,” said NYCLASS Executive Director Edita Birnkrant. “The Department of Health does not have enough inspectors to be on the street.”
Brinkrant said NYCLASS believes the Taxi and Limousine Commission “will do a much better job of regulating the industry—they will have inspectors on the street who know where the drivers are at all times and how long the horses have been working.”
Under the proposal, the carriage industry would remain subject to NYPD law enforcement.
“They’re the ones who enforce the animal cruelty laws,” Birnkrant said.
However, carriage operators maintain that placing the industry under Taxi and Limousine Commission jurisdiction would put their horses at risk.
“We like the Department of Health regulating us and inspecting our stables because they have veterinarians on staff, and NYPD has its own mounted unit; they know about horses,” said carriage industry representative Christine Hansen. “Having someone who knows nothing about horses in charge of regulating the industry does not make sense.”
Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, who has examined New York’s carriage horses extensively, agrees.
“It’s absolutely absurd; horses are not machines,” she said.
Birnkrant said the proposal, along with other carriage industry matters, remains under discussion.