NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Could horse-drawn carriages soon trot out of the Big Apple?
As CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner reported, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages after he takes office in January, leaving carriage drivers worried about their futures.
Antonio Salerno has worked as a horse-drawn carriage driver for 36 years to support his wife and three daughters.
“This is what I do all of my life,” Salerno said. “Three generations.”
At 60 years old, Salerno said he’s not sure what he would do next if his profession is banned in New York City.
The iconic horse-drawn carriages around Central Park have long been a destination for tourists.
“We have been doing this business for 155 years in this very spot here on 59th Street,” said carriage driver Christina Hansen. “And it’s a business model that works because millions of people have taken carriage rides and been happy.”
Added Silvana Issighos, a tourist from Vancouver, Canada: “That’s part of New York City! We’ve been here 10 times, and we always talk about the horse-and-carriages.”
Animal rights activists have campaigned for decades to try to ban the carriages, arguing the practice is cruel to the horses.
“No matter what they say, the horses are really not kept in a good condition,” said Elizabeth Forel, who heads the Coalition To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. “At the stalls themselves … at least 60 square feet is what they’re required to be … but that’s less than half of what experts recommend.”
But carriage owners such as Salerno argue the industry is strictly regulated and the horses are cared for like family.
The horses “can talk to me. They can tell me what they needed,” he said. “They’re telling me if they have a pain. They’re telling me everything — say they’re angry, if he wants a drink. He’s telling me everything, and I understand.”
It is unclear what would happen to the roughly 300 horses if the carriages are banned.
De Blasio’s staff did not respond to repeated inquiries.
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