The bill to ban horse-drawn carriages is scheduled to be introduced into the City Council next week at a scheduled meeting.  We are very grateful to Mayor DeBlasio for keeping his promise.  The fact that so many horses “disappear” in ths business is very troublesome and we hope that in the short phaseout, this issue will be addressed.

Some of the horses who have disappeared are Carson, Smokey, Ceasar [sic], Bobby Jo, Alice, Rebecca, Flash, Phoenix, Lisa#2155,  Lisa #2717 and Roger.  They are among a long list of horses who are no longer in the NYC carriage trade as of September 2014.  They had been working in the trade for between five and at least nine years and possibly more.  We know that Roger was retired – at least according to the fanfare by the Daily News.  But Roger was a rock star, having appeared on a few TV shows. Carson and Ceasar were involved in a scam by one of the carriage drivers who was accused of substituting older Ceasar’s ID number for Carson, the younger horse.  Now they are both gone.

What Happens to NYC Carriage Horses When They're "Retired"

Where Did They all Go?   

Comparing the September 2014 Department of Health (DoH) horse registry list to last year’s, I observed that at least 59 horses were no longer listed. Horse owners are not legally accountable for their horse’s retirement. Sales records for horses sold outside NYC, as most are, are not required to be submitted to the DoH.  The only required documentation is notification that the horses are “gone” so the registry is kept updated.

In the spring of 2013, I wrote this piece, which discussed 7 ½ years of monitoring the official carriage horse lists from the DoH.  It revealed that a total of 529 NYC carriage horses “disappeared” in that time – about 70 horses a year. There are approximately 180 horses in the business.

What Happens to NYC Carriage Horses When They're "Retired"

In that time the industry took on 516 new horses.  Out with the old, in with the new.

The industry does not want this information getting out to the public so they’ve came up with many excuses ranging from accusing me of lying to saying that the owners have a right to do what they want to with their horses. They are, after all, their property.  Some said that they needed to try out a horse first to see if he or she was suitable to work in NYC.  But how long is a “try out period?” And why are the carriage drivers and their supporters, who refer to themselves as “equine experts and professionals,” not able to tell if a horse is suitable to work in NYC?  Why don’t these owners have accountability for any of their horses? The drivers say that all the horses are offered retirement at Blue Star Equiculture, a Massachusetts farm with ties to the carriage industry. But this facility has room for only about 30 horses, so the numbers simply do not add up.  Besides this “official retirement” is not written into the law.

When the DoH tried to change its regulations in December 2009 to require specific sales information for all horses sold, the industry complained and the requirement was rescinded. It is entirely possible that many of these horses are laundered through Amish farmers and go to auction frequented by kill buyers who need to make their quota for the Canadian horse meat market. After all this is how I found Bobby II Freedom, a NYC carriage horse, in 2010.

What Happens to NYC Carriage Horses When They're "Retired"

 

The following 59 horses who were in the system last April 2013, but were no longer listed by September 2014. The information is based on “snap shot” lists from the DoH. Only one (Roger) is accounted for.

Worked between 6 and 9 years:

Lisa #2717; Carson #2954; Lisa #2155; Roger 2377;  Ceasar #2474; Smokey #2526; Alice #3095  Bobby Jo #3209; Rebecca #3177

Worked between 2 and 5 years:

Phoenix #3244; Flash #3311; Dolly #3299; Lucky #3383; Beauty #3388; Henry #3445; Bruno #3490; Male Cosmo  #3560; Sarah  #3577; Alice #3595; Olivia #3668; Teddy #3391; Charlie #3392; Thor #3480; Major #3396; Lucky #3718; Mozart  #3720; Dennis #3494; Ruby #3513;

Diego 3534; Jethro #3539; Isabelle #3634; Windy #3652

Worked 1 year or less:

Luciel #3640; Pickles  #3641; Doreen  3670; Jodie #3686; King #3691; Lucky #3705; Kevin  #3717; Blueberry  #3723; Dolly #3724; Charlie  #3732; Oh Henry #3733; Sara #3741; Billy #3742; Harry  #3744; Danny Boy #3745; O’Callaghan #3748; Apache #3758; Jack #3759; Isabel  #3764; Buster  #3766; Carson #3767; Elmo #3770; Victoria  #3775; Angelina  #3787; Frisk  #3788; Pumpkin #3790; Danny Boy  #3795

Searching for an End to Carriage Horse Cruelty

For years, the carriage trade has enjoyed many entitlements – from low insurance rates to low license fees  – compared to the pedicab industry that they unsuccessfully tried to ban in 2005. Street laws, such as the prohibition of U-turns or requiring horses to be tethered and attended to at all times, are mostly not enforced. The City provides them with a lucrative opportunity to ply their trade in high tourist areas, with no consideration to the dangers of traffic congestion. They give little in return – including their contribution to NYC taxes, which is based on their net income and what they report to the IRS.

We hope we are finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

All image source: Mary Culpepper