Letters & Editorials 

NY SUN  EDITORIAL    (our comments below)

 ASPCA and the Horses   

Imagine what it would be like to be in a business that is regulated in part by a private body. Imagine, in addition, that the private body is invested with police powers, including the power to make arrests. Then imagine that this private body has stated it doesn't believe your industry, which has been legal for centuries, should be allowed even to exist in New York. Then imagine that the private body was campaigning against you while trying to raise private cash contributions to fund its work.

One might think that such a situation would be impossible in a free country, but this what the horse carriage industry in the city is facing every day from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Its president, Edwin Sayres, has sent a letter, which we print in the adjacent columns, asserting that the ASPCA is "shocked" at the Sun's endorsement of the horse carriage industry, as well as the fact that we dast report, as our David Pomerantz did on March 27, the findings of a veterinarian that the carriage horses are healthy and well cared for.

"We believe nothing could be further from the truth," Mr. Sayres writes. He asserts that "neither the New York City environment nor the current law provides horses with the fundamental necessities to ensure their safety and well being." He's talking about an industry on which the spokesman for the horse carriage industry, Carolyn Daly, points out, regulations impose restrictions on, among other things, working hours, temperatures, stable conditions, safety equipment, licenses, mandatory health inspections and examinations, driver training, vaccinations, farrier care, feed quality, and manure cleanup.

Mr. Sayres says the ASPCA's position "was underscored" by a widely discussed Audit Report on the "Licensing and Oversight of the Carriage Horse Industry" by the city's health and mental hygiene department and its department of consumer affairs. The report was issued in September by the city comptroller. Mr. Sayres says the report pointed out the lack of the required number of inspections, an absence of veterinary examinations in the field, the presence of too many passengers in carriages, and the lack of designated formal hack stands, so that horses often stand in their own waste without shade or water.

What Mr. Sayres forgot to mention was the key summary finding of the comptroller: "Our review of DOHMH files showed that the department provided the required training program and examinations to drivers of horsedrawn carriages and maintained the Certificates of Health for the horses. Neither the ASPCA inspector nor the DOHMH veterinarian consultant found any serious violations regarding the health and safety of the horses when we accompanied them to the stables."

The business about too many passengers in carriages strikes us as ridiculous. The fact is, Ms. Daly reports, that the ASPCA has written few violations for this — no doubt, we reckon, because the drivers enforce this rule themselves quite assiduously. The lack of hack stands is a matter that was brought to the attention of the comptroller's auditors not by the ASPCA but by the carriage-horse owners and drivers themselves. The industry has been plumping for years for more spigots and better drainage in their staging areas — a matter that the city is moving to address.

The ASCPA's point about how some horses have died in traffic accidents strikes us as irrelevant. The death of any horse is dramatic and sad, but the number of horses who have perished in accidents is two. One was electrocuted when it stepped on an electrified manhole cover and the other was spooked by a snare drum and ran into a tree. We've known a number of human beings who have been killed in accidents in New York, and no one is trying to outlaw humans from working in the city.

Mr. Sayres's attack on the integrity of Dr. John Lowe, the veterinarian commissioned by the Horse and Carriage Industry Association, is just completely uncalled for. Dr. Lowe has a long, distinguished resume, and he has taken a careful look at the horses, both in their stables and at work. The ASPCA's former head of equine affairs, incidentally, did a report in 2005 on urban carriage horses with reference to New York City and found nothing that we can imagine would upset the horse carriage industry. If he had, no doubt the ASPCA would have released his report.

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We don't want to be too hard on the ASPCA. Real cruelty to animals is a terrible thing, particularly haunting when it involves sentient beings such as horses. The ASPCA has a proud history that began, its Web site tells us, when the organization's founder, Henry Bergh, saw a carthorse brutally beaten by his driver. But nothing even remotely like that is going on against the carriage horses in New York, and the ASPCA is risking its reputation when it tries to liken the treatment of carriage horses to the abuses it was created to fight.

The horse-carriage industry, after all, is not seeking to avoid oversight. Ian McKeever of the Shamrock Stables phoned us the other day to remind us that the industry actually welcomes regulation and enforcement. He reckons the logical agency would be the New York Police Department's mounted patrol, whose own steeds set such an example for the rest of horsedom. It certainly makes better sense than to entrust the enforcement, with powers of arrest, to a private organization that has publicly stated that the horse carriage industry has no place in New York. The fact is that the carriage horses are among the most cared for, regulated, and loved horses who have ever poked an oft-nuzzled nose into a feed bag.

Coalition Comments:  The NY Sun is clearly pro-industry - and we include the editorial here to show just how biased and wrong they are.  It is not a widely read paper.  How many respectable newspapers would print a letter from an esteemed organization - the ASPCA - and then rip it apart in an editorial.    To  refer to Caronly Daly's comments as if she were an expert are ridiculous since she is a paid Public Relations consultant by the industry and could easily work for any other industry  telling their story.  As as for the veterinarian, Dr. Lowe - he, too, was paid by the industry and has a history of testifying for them at City Council hearings.  He also admitted  in a telephone call that he did not examine the horses while working.  

If anyone knows about this issue and the horses, it is the ASPCA and it was not without very careful consideration that they are supporting a ban of the industry.  We recommend that  everyone ignore this paper - they are not a player anyway.