On Tuesday evening in Midtown Manhattan, a Central Park carriage horse got spooked and took off running in the direction of oncoming traffic, apparently without a driver, for several blocks. The horse, Freddy, ended up sideswiping two vehicles and then got stuck in between them. As the traffic slowed to a halt, drivers began honking their horns, which startled the horse again. Freddy suffered a gash on his left side, and a pedestrian crossing the street also sustained an injury when the horse crashed into them.

“When horses are forced to drive carriages on the busy streets of Manhattan, violent crashes will keep happening over and over again. Electric carriages don’t get spooked – but 2,000-pound terrified horses in cities do – endangering themselves, carriage drivers, and everyone else around them,” said Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Clean, Liveable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS).  

Birnkrant and Marty Irby of Animal Wellness Action are calling for an investigation into the incident, and Irby is calling for the driver’s license to be revoked. Apparently, the driver was inexperienced, and the horse had recently been introduced to the city. Birnkrant is also asking for the horse to be sent to a sanctuary. 

“Working horses on hot, slippery asphalt without the proper care and nourishment is inexcusable, and this particular incident saw a horse run out of control into oncoming traffic, which is tremendously dangerous for horses and humans alike. The animal protection movement in America fired up 150 years ago over the issue of carriage horse abuse, yet Manhattan continues to allow it to persist today. The American people will no longer tolerate these incidents in our modern-day society,” said Irby.  

A carriage industry spokesperson, however, predictably attempted to downplay the incident. 

“Every single incident has been in the news because it almost never happens,” she said. “It’s not cruel to horses… They’re very well taken care of.” 

But this is far from the truth, as the job is inherently cruel. Horses can work up to 9 hours a day for 7 days a week, carrying loads of up 1,800 pounds. They’re forced to walk all day on hot asphalt, breathing in toxic fumes from cars in the chaos of a New York City. They also often live in tiny stables in the city that are too small for them to even comfortably lay down, and the floors are covered in their waste. When the horses become spent, they are often euthanized or sent to auction for slaughterhouses.

On top of that, there have been several “incidents” in the last few years. Just last month, we saw carriage drivers kicking and dragging a collapsed horse. Late last year, another horse got spooked, collided with a vehicle, sustained deep lacerations on several areas of its body, and passed out. And two years ago, an overworked horse collapsed in central park because of a cardiac issue and was euthanized.

This is an archaic tradition that needs to die out. Animals should never be exploited and forced to work so that humans can profit from them. Enough is enough.

Please sign this petition to help ban horse-drawn carriages!

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