Stop horsing around city: Avella

A horse pulls a carriage down a Midtown Manhattan street.
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State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said a recent string of highly publicized accidents in Manhattan involving horse-drawn carriages demonstrates the need to ban the industry from operating in New York City.

In 2011, there have been seven carriage horse incidents investigated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which regulates the industry in Central Park. In the most recent, a horse fell two weeks ago while being driven with four passengers. The horse was examined by its veterinarian and inspected by the ASPCA, and has been cleared to return to work.

“This issue is clearly coming to a head just because of a number of accidents reported lately,” the senator said. “The industry is trying to be on its best behavior and it’s still happening.”

As a city council member, Avella sponsored a bill calling for a ban on the industry in New York City. In May, he introduced a similar bill in the Senate, and state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) introduced a companion bill in the Assembly.

Eva Hughes, a Bayside resident and constituent of Avella’s, is also the vice president of the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, and sharply disagrees with the senator.

“Sen. Avella has been made aware of our stellar safety record. He can say it’s dangerous all he wants all day long. The fact is, statistically, our industry is the safest equine pursuit,” she said. “With only three deaths in 30 years, it’s not a good record; it’s an extraordinary record.”

Hughes said she estimates about half a dozen owners and drivers live in Bayside.

“Tony Avella should hang his head in shame for wanting to put working families out of business,” she said.

Avella’s bill does not have any co-sponsors, but he believes that after years of trying the tide of public opinion is finally turning in his favor.

“Once the [legislative] session begins again in January, I’m going to lobby my colleagues in the Senate and put together a lobbying day for the animal rights groups,” he said.

Avella said the industry is inherently detrimental to the animals’ health in a modern metropolis.

“The ASPCA said earlier ... that there’s no way for the industry to operate in Midtown traffic and not be cruel to animals,” he said. The city [Department of Health], on its website, has a training manual for drivers of horse carriages and in one section it lists the number of things that can spook a horse, like air brakes on a truck and horns honking. That happens every second in Midtown.”

In response to the most recent accident, Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the practice.

“Carriage horses have traditionally been a part of New York City,” he said. “The tourists love them, and we’ve used from time immemorial animals to pull things. They are well-treated, and we’ll continue to make sure that they are well-treated.”

Avella disagreed with that line of reasoning.

“The mayor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They didn’t always exist. The horse carriage industry as we know it today started in 1935, and it was only in the late 1990s that they could go beyond Central Park. To say it’s always existed is to be oblivious,” he said.

The senator also disagreed with the mayor’s implication that the industry should be preserved for the sake of increased tourism.

“This is the stupidest statement. You’re not going to tell me that someone from Europe or California is not going to come if we ban horse carriages? That’s just an insult to everything else New York City has to offer,” he said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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Reader Feedback

Donny Moss from Manhattan says:
Senator Avella and Assembly Member Rosenthal have gone out on a limb for those most in need of a voice and who can't even repay them with their votes. We need more lawmakers like them who put conscience before money and politics.
Dec. 15, 2011, 11:36 pm
Celyn from Bronx says:
It is time for the people of the city to have a say in this. NY should not be known for cruelty to animals. I just read another story that goes into the local politics and there's also a link to a petition to ban the horse-drawn carriages in NYC.

Here they are for anyone who wants to know more and be part of stopping this.
Dec. 16, 2011, 12:51 am
Maxine from Baltimore,MD says:
I love NYC, but I don't love this mistreatment of a lovely animal. Please stop these practices.
Dec. 16, 2011, 8:56 am
Teresa from Manhattan says:
Three deaths in 30 years! Eva Hughes, you are such a liar. How can you be so stupid as to think people will believe that? Oh, wait, I know the answer. There have been at least that many deaths in the last five years! Carriage horses die; the drivers lie.
Dec. 16, 2011, 10:04 am
Eva Hughes from Bayside says:
Julie Van Ness - I don't do the bidding of RARAs. The horse deaths I cited here are public information at the DOH; FOIL them yourself.

I challenge YOU however, to produce evidence that more than 3 horses since 1982 have died from traffic accidents.

I won't hold my breath.
Dec. 16, 2011, 11:59 am
Eva Hughes from Bayside says:
Maxine - what "mistreatment" are you referring to, exactly?
Dec. 16, 2011, 12:09 pm
Laura McFarland-Taylor says:
To all that want to ban the carriage horses, answer these questions: where will these horses go and who will pay for their care? I want actual names of rescues, not the typical response I get when I ask these questions of the anti-carriage crowd, which is: “Don’t worry – we have it covered.” Um, riiiight. Horse rescues are over-flowing, there is a hay shortage in much of the country, let alone a land shortage for pasture, the wild horses are being rounded up, and horse slaughter is back on the table, and I’m not supposed to “worry” about it? Oh, and let’s not forget that NY-CLASS is in bed with PETA and PETA has come out in favor of horse slaughter.
Dec. 16, 2011, 12:18 pm
Laura McFarland-Taylor says:
“Senator Avella and Assembly Member Rosenthal have gone out on a limb for those most in need of a voice and who can't even repay them with their votes. We need more lawmakers like them who put conscience before money and politics.”

I wonder how much money Steve Nislick, NY-CLASS, and the ASPCA have donated to their campaigns?
Dec. 16, 2011, 12:21 pm
Bean from Bronx says:
There is no excuse for animal abuse or exploitation!
Punching horses in the face, carriage drivers what a disgrace!
No one comes to NYC just to ride in a carriage, Mr. Bloomberg. Get your head out of the iceberg it is frozen in and come into the 21 st century. Sen. Tony Avella, thank you for caring. It is nice to see a politican speak out against this long burdensome issue! Until the horses are off the streets, the activists will be at the hackline, defending the horses and making our voices heard! You can count on that!
Dec. 16, 2011, 4:23 pm
Robert Stanley says:
Christine, any fool can Google it is true and any fool can cut and paste from the same tired posts that the same few people keep putting up to keep the discussion at the height of emotional hysterics over the "poor sad horses". It seems to me that the "industry" has answered all of the accusations levelled against it and comes out looking professional, responsible and wronged by a number of parties. One driver allegedly "punching" a horse does not make everyone involved in the NYC carriage trade guilty of abuse. This sounds like something you may or may not have witnessed, may or may not have been able to comprehend the context of and have since turned into a kind of personal myth to justify your “commitment” to the “cause” of animal rights. There is no caring and compassion in trying to ban working horses from NYC and trying to destroy the livelihood of those human animals who actually provide for welfare of their equine partners based on experience, known best practices, veterinary advice, and research based-facts. The only other thing I wonder is, if New York City traffic is so darn dangerous how do eight million people get up and go out the door every day?
Dec. 17, 2011, 2:57 am
Mrs. H.B. Willis from Louisiana says:
Some lawyers are crooks- should we "kill all the lawyers"? Some doctors are uncaring quacks- should we ban the medical profession? Some cab drivers "drive like maniacs"- should we ban taxis? I could go on and on but the sane people here will have gotten my point.

Actually after reading many of the anti-carriage horse posts describing the "mean streets" of NYC, I've come to the conclusion that they are safe for neither man nor beast. Boy, am I glad I don't live there -- for many, many reasons.

I am also tired of reading the same "hackneyed" phases that radical animal rights advocates trot out time and time again-- "nose to tail pipe existance" the "greedy, cruel and inhumane carriage industry" "exploiting their equine slaves for profit" and I could go on and on.

The fact is that NYC carriage horses and carriage horses everywhere have safe homes, plenty of quality feed and necessary vet and farrier care at a time when millions of horses are slowly starving, suddenly homeless or being sold directly to slaughter house agents by the truck load because their owners who kept them as pets or as a "hobby" can no longer afford to keep them.

There are ordinances and regulations already on the books in NYC to protect the carriage horses from working in bad weather or when it is extremely hot or cold. Their shifts are limited to 9 hours a day- and that includes time traveling to and from their stables. They have a minimum of five weeks off in the country- not just standing in their stalls in the city each year.

Really, the lot in life of a city carriage horse is in many ways less stressful and requires less hard pulling than a farm horse's does, but we never hear any protests about farm horses being abused. No, they are out of sight and out of the radical animal rights activists'' minds-- same goes for competitive driving horses.

In the final analysis, this "carriage horse war" isn't about the horses' welfare at all. It is about massaging the egos of people (without any real horse experience) who believe they have a right to dictate to other people about how to run their businesses and how to care for their horses.

It is about greed, too. There are people fueling this debate because they hope a carriage horse ban will result in some prime property (the current horse stables) coming on the market for redevelopment.

Other people are being paid to rabble rouse and lobby against the carriage horse owners- do you really think that the two girls that developer Steve Nislick has running NYCLASS are doing all that work for FREE?

And don't forget the polititans who are hoping to garner the votes of the well-organized radical anti-carriage horse groups and factions.

And lastly, there are the animal welfare and animal rights organizations, ASPCA and HSUS that can use this issue to tug at their gullible donors' heartstrings to keep those donation dollars rolling in to the tune of multi-millions of dollars. This is also good for their executive directors and presidents, who command salaries that would put some doctors, lawyers and even bankers to shame.

I urge every sane and thinking person to look behind the curtain, and through the smoke and mirrors to understand the real motives of some of the anti-carriage horse players. Don't just fall for their chants, slogans and sound bytes.

Do see the carriage horse owners for who they are- working people just like you who have been harrassed and hassled for years just for trying to make a living doing a job they like to do.

Also, look at those horses. They are not skinny with dirty patchy coats and listless eyes. They are not wild-eyed prey animals "spooking" at every noise they hear and every sight they see. Most are rather relaxed or even blaze' about their surroundings.

The NYC carriage horses have bright eyes, and glossy coats (although at this time of yoar their coats are more like those of a plush toy becaue of their winter hair, a natural defense against the cold.) They are in good flesh, ome are really quite chunky.. They have the correct shoes and they are well groomed.

As a carriage horse and livery owner (although NOT in NYC), I urge people not to believe the wild accusations of abuse and slaughter tales being flung around by the animal rights people- the same people who would dump paint on your grandmother if they saw her wearing fur. The same people who invaded the Americal Girl store chanting, shouting and scaring little girls out of their wits, all in the name of animal rights. Thank you for taking the time to read my post.
Dec. 17, 2011, 3:51 am
Stephanie from S.I. says:
Re:"peri from queens says:
"You people are delusional. Paperwork and records are not necessary. All it takes is one good look into one of these horses faces to see the misery there." Where did you learn this technique.What equine Classes have or are you attending? What about reading the rest of their bodies? There are 7 steps to reading a horse. If you learn to effectively do this, you will be surprised at what you see and be embarrassed by your statement. For the sake of the animals you claim to care for, do more research.Read some scientific, non-propaganda literature.
Dec. 18, 2011, 4:07 pm
Stephanie from S.I. says:
Re:Christine S. from Brooklyn says:
"Laura McFarland-Taylor - It is a labor of love born out of caring and compassion. The industry people are protecting their ability to continue exploiting the horses for money." Unfortunately, if you follow the posts of these "caring and compassionate" people, it is their lack of knowledge of horses that is discrediting them. Horses are not dogs or cats, which are the predominant animal of which NYers are exposed to.Are you against riding horses? Therapeutic riding programs? Pony Rides?
Dec. 18, 2011, 4:25 pm
Linda from Forest Hills says:
Horses DO NOT belong on our city streets! End of story!
Dec. 25, 2011, 8:57 pm
Gus from NYC says:
Tony Avella needs help. There are some good hospitals out there.
Dec. 29, 2011, 2:13 pm
Patricia from Canada says:
As a lifelong horselover and caregiver, I can say that a trip to New York City would not be the same without a carriage ride. My horses are now pasture ornaments only. One started life as a research animal at a Canadian veterinary college. People who complain about care of animals need to adopt and commit to lifelong care of these animals. Though my horses are now idle and living a rural life, I don't see that as a better or happier life than a New York City carriage horse, just different. These horses are individuals. Prior to retirement, my horses were happiest when busy and in the company of lots of people.
Jan. 8, 2012, 11:57 am

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