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CBSNewYork’s Guide To Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides Sparks Outrage Among Animal Rights Activists

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Horse Drawn Carriage (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Horse Drawn Carriage (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Over the weekend, CBSNewYork’s editorial team published a guide to New York City’s horse and carriage industry, with information for those looking to take a ride.

While the guide was intended to be just that — a guide to our readers in and around New York City — the piece generated an unanticipated level of reaction from folks debating the issue of animal cruelty.

Here at CBSNewYork.com, we’ve covered the controversy surrounding horse carriages closely.

After two horses died in Manhattan last fall,  the president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Elizabeth Forel, was one of the animal-rights activists to speak out.

“Horses don’t belong in the city,” she said. “It’s very upsetting.”
(Have your own opinion?  Cast a ballot in our unscientific poll and leave your thoughts in the section at the bottom of the page.)

In the midst of the horse deaths,  Mayor Bloomberg weighed in on the issue, disagreeing with those against the business of horse-drawn carriages. He expressed his belief that the industry is a staple of local tourism.

“The way we pay our municipal employees and the way we pay them is with taxpayers’ money and the taxpayers depend on tourists coming here, and going out in carriages are just one of those things that they do,” Bloomberg said.

“Most of [the horses] probably wouldn’t be alive if they didn’t have a job,” Bloomberg said.

Ian McKeever, spokesperson for the Horse & Carriage Association, told CBSNewYork that he agrees with the mayor.

“All a horse wants is to have a job. If horses weren’t doing this, they’d be dead. We’re doing a credit to these horses by giving them a job and looking after them,” he said.

In light of the outrage sparked by our guide, we reached out again to Forel.

“Every poll that has been taken since 2006 has shown that at least 75 percent of respondents want a ban of the industry,” Forel told us.

“Why you decided to promote the carriage industry in Atlanta, Seattle, New York…is beyond me.”

What’s more, Carly Knudson, the Executive Director of New Yorkers for Clean Livable & Safe Streets (NYCLASS), started a petition in an effort to have the article removed from our site.

“The carriage horse industry forces its animals to work long hours in treacherous conditions.  News organizations like CBS New York should be scrutinizing this industry instead of promoting it,” Knudson said.

Meanwhile, McKeever  told us that horses spend nine months of the year working and 3 months of the year on a farm – where they receive some of the best care in the country.

“Animal activists are entitled to their opinion, but they are unequivocally, 100 percent wrong,”  McKeever said.

He pointed out that the Horse and Carriage Association of New York has never received a cruelty ticket in the 30 years that he’s been with them.

“We will invite anybody to come into our business and take a look at our horses and stables.”

But what about the protestors that are often found in Central Park?

According to the carriage operator Robert Boyle, those are just the few squeaky wheels.

“Obviously if people didn’t want us, we wouldn’t be in business. The only reason we’re here is because people take rides,” Boyle said.

“You come out here at Christmastime and watch a thousand people lined up waiting to take a carriage ride – that should be the answer to your question.”

We reached out to the City Council for a statement on the issue. The office was quick to point out recent legislation the city passed on the treatment of working horses, and passed along a statement from Council spokesperson Robin Levine.

“The legislation requires horse operators to provide their rental horses with at least five weeks of vacation a year, in a location with daily pasture access,” Levine said.

Additionally, the laws restrict the ages at which horses may be licensed to work, increased the number of mandatory annual veterinary visits and requires carriages to carry blankets and have proper safety measures in place.

Where do you stand on the issue of horse-drawn carriages in New York City?

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