A couple of months ago, I published a two-part blog on the controversy of horse carriages in New York City. I shared that while I believed there is a place in NYC for horse carriages, I do not believe the city’s streets are this haven. I believe a better place to offer horse carriage rides is Central Park, not only for the horses but for business as well. I will not belabor that point in this blog but I encourage you to take a look back to New York City: No Place for a Horse to grasp my complete perspective on the matter.
Since the first mention of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s intent to remove horse carriages from NYC streets (and my previously mentioned blog) there has been no definitive action toward this resolution. Parties in support of the mayor’s initiative say they simply have not introduced a bill or selected sponsors. Their side now faces added pressure from a new medical study. Recently, Veterinarian Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, a professor in the Rutgers University Department of Animal Sciences, has provided her expert opinion to the debate. She does not believe horse carriages to be inhumane and finds a ban would not be necessary to protect the animal’s best interest. In fact, she believes the routine of carriages horses enhances quality of life and helps to better maintain good health.
Pat Raia, journalist for The Horse and author of Carriage Horse Controversy Extends Beyond New York City quotes Ralston as saying:
“The carriage horses, on the whole, are showing no signs of distress or unwillingness to work when asked to do so,” asserted Ralston. “They are well adapted to their environment. If they weren’t, they would not last long on the streets… If a horse is in its stall without access to pasture, but is getting quality basic care and regular exercise, should we say that this horse is being abused, or is it cruel to ask a horse to do a job that it is well-trained for and capable of doing without distress? … This is the norm for a majority of the horses kept in urban and suburban settings, and this (kind of legislation) sends a terrible precedent that should have the entire horse industry up in arms” (Raia).
In my opinion, Ms Ralston’s argument that horse carriages in themselves are not necessarily inhumane is correct but I do not necessarily accept her argument that “They (horses) are well adapted to their environment. If they weren’t, they would not last long on the streets.” Not the most sensitive concern for the welfare of the horse in my opinion. Do the horses have any say in the matter? Of course not. They are there because they are domesticated beast of burden but that doesn’t mean they should be subjected to a live or die trying situation. I repeat, my concern that horses standing for long hours on hard surfaces whether it be on the city streets or in a barn aisle or wash stall is abusive treatment.
Previously, the preeminent argument of the side in favor of horse carriages was fear of mass job loss and the removable of a historical and cultural fixture in the city’s history. Surely, the debate will become more interesting given this development.
New York City is not the only metropolitan taking a look at its regulations for horse carriages. Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Chicago are all following suit. Each city has recently reviewed regulations surrounding horse carriages. While Philadelphia and Salt Lake City’s revisions would allow horse carriages to remain a part of city life, legislation has been introduced Chicago that could potentially put an end to carriage ride, ceasing the issue of new “licenses until all such licenses have expired.” I will certainly be tuned in to developments in these cities as well as New York City.