Recently, the City Comptroller’s office issued a follow up audit on the licensing and oversight of the carriage horse industry, which critics have long complained is inhumane and unsafe.
Auditors found that the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could do a better job overseeing inspections and licensing requirements. Among other things, the report alleges that these agencies do not maintain an updated listing of horse-licensing numbers, which means that inspectors and outside organizations cannot properly conduct field visits to make sure the animals are being treated humanely and maintained in a healthy manner.
While we won’t go so far as to suggest that this industry be banned altogether, we agree that now is a good time for the administration and City Council to look closely at carriage horses and put better safeguards in place to make sure that the horses are treated well and that these carriages do not endanger public safety.
A new group, NY Class (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) has joined with the ASPCA and others in demanding that the city look at alternatives to the carriage horse business because of the way it treats these animals and because they believe it creates a danger to public safety. One idea that deserves consideration is eco-friendly, classic replica automobiles. This would allow tourists and others who want a nostalgic ride around Central Park to do so in a safer, cleaner and more animal-friendly way.
We are also sensitive to the fact that carriage horses are a long-standing industry in the city and that the 324 licensed operators add to our economic tax base. Perhaps if the city moved to the classic automobile model, these operators could be retrained and given tax breaks to shift their mode of transport. That could be a win for the industry, for the horses, for our environment and for public safety.
Many prominent New Yorkers have joined with NY Class to advocate for this alternative and to end the sometimes dangerous and inhumane treatment of more than 200 horses in our city. We urge the City Council to take up this cause and look at this idea very closely this fall.
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