Welcome Green Monsters! We're your online guide to making conscious choices that help people, animals and the planet.
Download food monster: the biggest, baddest, yummiest vegan food app!
Buy the #EatForThePlanet book



Where do all the NYC Carriage Horses Go?

Where do all the NYC Carriage Horses Go?

The controversial horse-drawn carriage trade in New York City continues to be the subject of debate and has become an issue in the mayoral contest, which will be decided in November.

Since 2006, every online poll has shown between 75 and 80% of respondents favor a ban of this inhumane and unsafe business.  New Yorkers and tourists alike are saying “Enough!” It is the politicians who are holding things up.

Still misinformation abounds and, without challenge, becomes the accepted view.

MYTHS:  After the death of Charlie, a young carriage horse who dropped dead on NYC’s streets in October 2011, there were renewed cries from the public to shut down the carriage business.  Mayor Bloomberg, a big supporter of the trade, responded,  “Most of them [the horses] probably wouldn’t be alive if they didn’t have a job.”   And people believed it – that if the horses did not have a job, they would be slaughtered and continuing the carriage trade prevented this from happening.

Another accepted and unchallenged opinion from a New York Times article, dated December 7, 2011 was a quote by Dr. Nena Winand,   a NY Veterinarian and member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, who said, “If we banned the carriage horse industry tomorrow, they would go straight to slaughter. There is no big field out there and no one to pay the bills.”

So we apparently have to save the carriage horse owners from themselves since it is they who bring the horses to auction where they can be bought for slaughter.  The horses do not walk there on their own volition.

Feeding right into this is another myth that the media has bought into  – a “retirement home”  for the NYC carriage horses. They promote this nice fairy tale without asking the necessary questions – such as  – how many NYC carriage horses have you taken? how many can your farm hold?; will you force them to work?; do you take every horse whose license is not renewed?  If not, what happens to them?

Maybe a handful are retired each year and get good homes.  But a retirement home for all could not be further from the truth.

NEW STUDY:  A new study conducted by the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages shows that over the past eight years, there was a turnover of at least 529 carriage horses who did not have their license renewed by the NYC Department of Health (DoH), the agency charged with oversight of these animals.  The only reason horses come off the registry is when they are sold or died.

Some 200 horses are registered with the DoH annually.  For 529 to have no accountability is deeply disturbing.   This averages out to 71 horses a year over 7 ½ years.

We are aware that some horses did find homes, some were rescued and some died but it is simply not feasible that this many horses were retired to good homes, as the carriage trade would have you believe.

I suspect that neither Bloomberg, nor Winand are aware of the very high turnover of horses in the NYC carriage trade.  – Perhaps they, like many others, just assume the same horses work over and over and over again – like a billboard – never changing – or they do not give it a second thought.

The NYC Administrative Code – Section 17-329 does not require the names of buyers if the horse is sold outside New York City as most are and the DoH does not maintain documents or a database containing a list of horses who are no longer in the system.

HORSE AUCTIONS  – Not all horses are as fortunate as one named Billy, a former NYC carriage horse. After being sold to a kill buyer at New Holland in Pennsylvania, he was rescued/repurchased by the Coalition in 2010 and is now living out his golden years in peace—appropriately renamed Bobby ll Freedom—at Equine Advocates Sanctuary in Chatham, NY.

This was the e-mail I saw on Friday morning June 25th.  We immediately took action.

Thursday June 24, 2010 – 6:17pm

“Can you guys offer any info or know anyone who would like to save this gentle gelding from slaughter?  We only have til Sat 6 p.m. to find a secure home.  
6-22-12 – Bay gelding ex carriage horse has license plate on front left hoof quiet, gentle broke to ride/drive

Video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1mV4OMjvCA 
$600.00 and fees $100 for coggins, $25 adoption fee, etc. 

It is very possible a horse could go either directly or indirectly to the auctions, which are frequented by kill buyers who supply slaughter houses.  The Equine Welfare Alliance reports that 176,223 US horses were sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico in 2012 where their meat was processed to be sent overseas for human consumption.

A BILL THAT COULD HAVE HELPED:  In 2011, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages asked Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito to sponsor a bill, Intro 670, that would require that carriage horse owners abide by certain rules when selling their horses – i.e. to be accountable for the horses’ fate.  The owner would be required to sell or donate his or her horse to a private individual or sanctuary with a contractual agreement that the animal would be kept as a companion animal, not be sold or employed in another carriage business.  The horses could not be sold at auction.  The  DoH  would require complete records.  The press conference for the proposed legislation was canceled the night before by Speaker Christine Quinn and the bill subsequently died.   Quinn has been a staunch supporter of the carriage trade and has ultimate power in the City Council.  Bills do not go anywhere without her support.

Since that time, more than 116 horses – who would have been protected had it passed – have fallen off the rolls to uncertain fate.

So where do we go from here?  If the powers that be do not see fit to do anything about shutting down this inhumane and unsafe business, at least they should acknowledge and do something about all the horses who get used up.   But will they?  Do they care enough about these horses or will they continue to delude themselves into thinking it is a viable tourist attraction.

The status quo can continue to the tune of 71 horses falling off the DoH horse registry each year.  It all depends on who becomes NYC’s next mayor.  Someone compassionate and smart?  – or not.

In the meantime, we ask the City Council to revive Intro 670 and get it passed into law.

Screen shot 2013-06-01 at 10.40.46 AM

The 21-page Coalition report and the original Department of Health horse lists can be accessed on this page.

  • We also ask that you support the Avella/Rosenthal bill in the NYS legislature that would prohibit the use of horse-drawn carriages in NYC.  Please visit our web site for more information.
  • Contact your Council Member to ask that they resurrect Intro 670 bill and pass it.
  • Support Bill deBlasio for Mayor in the Democratic primary in September 2013.  Currently, the NYC Public Advocate, he is smart and compassionate and favors an immediate ban on the carriage trade but will work on a reasonable phase-out not dependent on the electric car substitute, which is too risky, costly and unrealistic.

Photo Credit: Mickey Z

Want to read more posts like this? Sign up for our newsletter below!​

Browse through some recent posts below:

Disclosure: One Green Planet accepts advertising, sponsorship, affiliate links and other forms of compensation, which may or may not influence the advertising content, topics or articles written on this site. Click here for more information.

8 comments on “Where do all the NYC Carriage Horses Go?”

Click to add comment
Micki fogarty
5 Years Ago

Now an industry is booming with young folks dragging around carts in the city. Are these people pretending they are in a third world county and Having a Rick shaw experience. OMG what next? Just don't glamorize any of this - it is NOT a good thing to be dragged around Central Park or Lake Shore Drive. Let it be known. Thumbs down Thanks for awareness. Micki

Rina Deych, RN
5 Years Ago

Excellent and very disturbing article. This abominable industry should have been banned decades ago.

Jane Denny
5 Years Ago

This comment from Cate whoever is completely ignorant and preposterous. First of all, the woman running for Mayor is Christine Quinn, not Kathleen Quinn. And if you think these horses are out there taking "daily strolls".... "In PEACE" you need to have your head examined. Mid-town Manhattan at the corner of 59th St. and Central Park West is about the least peaceful place on the planet. And what you are calling "magnificent horses" are a shadow, a wraith, a ghost of what they might be if they were living the lives they were meant to live had we not taken them out of it. Next, it's been more than a hundred years since anything in NYC was built with the aid of horse-drawn carriages. That time is gone. Time to move on. As far as a "legal business," maybe. But honest? When hundreds of horses are going missing and unaccounted for? Ethical? When they're worked to the bone, left outside in 90+ temperatures with no water, given nothing to eat but grain that hundred s of pigeons have been crapping in for hours, walked on hard pavement until their feet and legs are diseased, and finally sold for dog food when they can no longer make a buck for their slave drivers? Who did you say knows noting about horses?!

5 Years Ago

This is so sad and I agree with donny moss

5 Years Ago

Donny, you seem to say things, but reality seems quite different. You talk about the horses working in all kinds of conditions. Yet, they cannot work when its hot, when its too cold, when it rains too much, or when it snows too much. Your arguements don't fly, but your goals are obvious. As far as horses being killed at auction. Why do Animal Activists spend so much time and money on reports. On trying to discredit 200 or so drivers, and put them out of work and destroy their livelihoods,? When, they can start their own retirement home funded the same way the ASPCA is funded. Why always the negative, extremist method. Why can't they help the humans and horses at the same time. I believe their goals are also obvious. Animals should not have to work. Why can't they be up front with their true motives?

5 Years Ago

If this blog or whatever it is, advocates for Green Industry, then the horse-drawn carriages should be endorsed instead of needlessly harassed and bullied by people who know nothing about horses. and the use of contrived polls is pathetic. Based on what I've read about the NYC mayoral candidates of both the Democrat and Republican parties, Kathleen Quinn is the only competent one in the race. Seems to me real New Yorkers would be happy to share their city especially the relatively small area used by the horse-drawn carriages with these magnificent horses which were essential to the building of NYC, as well as civilization across the world. The very least New Yorkers or any urban area can do is let them have their daily strolls in peace. It is downright rude and an embarrassment for NYC to allow tourists and residents in their city to be harassed by ugly, unfounded protestors who have no respect for the rights of those involved in a legal, honest and ethical business. BTW the equine industry is one of our nation's greatest revenue generators, and it pretty much all stays right here in the US, and employees hundreds of thousands of people in supporting businesses and other related industries.

Terry Russo
5 Years Ago

With 529 horses leaving the rolls in a relatively short time, it doesn't take much to figure out that they're not all going to an idyllic retirement home. It costs a lot of money just for the basic yearly care of a horse, not counting any unforeseeable emergency veterinary care. The horse drawn carriage industry is just that, an industry. Unlike rescue groups who raise money with the purpose of saving the horses' lives, the carriage industry is there to make money. They are not going to be spending all their profits on "retired" horses. The NYC carriage horse, Billy (now Bobby II Freedom), was rescued from the New Holland Auction, where he would have been sold for slaughter. Was this just a fluke? Was he somehow mistakenly sent there, without his former carriage industry owners realizing it? REALLY?!!

Donny Moss
5 Years Ago

Banning 19th century horse and buggies from the congested streets of midtown would stop the cycle of slaughter. What do people think is happening to these horses now when they are too weak or injured to work?


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Follow us on

Do Not Show This Again


Submit to OneGreenPlanet

Terms & Conditions ×