Weekly updates about issues and actions concerning New York City's Carriage Horses

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30 June 2007 - Vol. # 37

Horses, heat stress & the law **A day at the hack line **ASPCA **What you can do

taking a break - will be back on July 14th - newsletter will continue

buses idling on CPS spewing diesel exhaust fumes; horses suffer
West Side LiveryNew York City can be brutal in the summer. This past week, we had two steamy hot days in the 90s with very high humidity. Heat and humidity affects the horse, and in severe cases, can result in death -- Read "Heat Stress: Too Hot to Trot" by Dr. Jenifer Nadeau. There is no shade on the hack line on Central Park South where the horses wait for passengers; restricted and confined within the shafts of their carriages wearing unnatural blinders and heavy tack. What a life! The cars and tour buses on CPS spewing pollution into the air affect both people and horses alike - but people have a choice - the horses don't. Read the study of respiratory damage on 20 NYC carriage horses. And let's not forgot their hot oven-like stables and the fact that there is no turn out ... the furthest stable is two miles from the hack line -- quite an exhausting ride in brutally hot weather. The stables have little ventilation as you can see by the picture of West Side Livery on W. 38th St. The horses live on the top floors - stalls accessed by steep ramps.

This is an excerpt from the NYC ADMINISTRATIVE CODE TITLE 17 - HEALTH concerning the temperature and carriage horses. From ? 17-330 Regulations - O-2. "Carriage horses shall not be worked whenever the air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or above." [there is no consideration for humidity in the law.] The law stipulates that the temperature will be measured by a state-of-the-art thermometer, as measured by the ASPCA's Humane Law Officer.

It goes on to effectively say that if the temperature is already 90 or above after the driver has customers in his carriage, he may finish the ride - but it must be within 1/2 hour. He must then "move the horse to an area of shelter, where available, rest the horse and then walk it directly to its stable. All horses so returned to their stable must be unbridled and unharnessed and must remain at the stable for at least one hour, and thereafter, until such time as the weather conditions shall once again reach acceptable limits." This is all on the honor system. No one is checking to see that the heavy tack is removed and the horses given a breather. And what about that ride back to the stable during this heat period? The law states the horse must be walked back - but who is monitoring this? And are the boiling hot stables much better than being worked outside?

horses at workThe law then seems to present a loophole for drivers by effectively stating that it is not a violation unless the HLE officer issues a written warning of violation to the driver advising that "the air temperature limits ... have been exceeded and directing that the operator cease working a carriage horse in accordance with the provisions of this subdivision."

It is not physically possible for one HLE officer to provide each driver (possibly 68) with written notice. The law is written with the driver in mind - not the horse. So a driver can legally stay outside until he is "caught." The law does not require him to be responsible for noting the temperature and removing his horse.

This is just one more reason why the carriage horse industry needs to be shut down in NYC. It is inherently inhumane for a myriad of reasons - not least of which is the issue of heat, humidity and stabling. The ASPCA is not able to adequately do the job. They have assigned only one Humane Law Enforcement officer to the carriage horses but when we are tabling on Saturdays, we often do not see him. This is a logistical issue brought on by the ASPCA leadership because they have accepted and presumably want this role. We know they cannot handle it properly and believe they should either admit so and ask for help - or they should step up to the plate and ask for a ban. They are doing neither.

We also appreciate that the Humane Law Enforcement Department, which is the "police" branch of the ASPCA must be unbiased in order to do their jobs. Yet the management branch, which includes the president Ed Sayres, appears to have a conflict of interest if they follow the teachings of their founder, Henry Bergh and truly advocate for these horses. How can they take a strong position about the horses when the HLE officer on the job has to be neutral? Maybe HLE needs to be a separate organization. Maybe this needs to be a separate and distinct division of the NYPD, paid for by tax dollars.

by Jill Weitz/Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
hack line - editedIt was 90 degrees and humid before noon on Wednesday, June 27. A brutally hot day. Concerned about the carriage horses, I took the subway up to Central Park South. According to New York City regulations the horses are supposed to be taken off the streets when it turns 90 (if the law took humidity into account, they would have been off the streets at least an hour earlier.) When I got to Grand Army Plaza at about 11:55 am, the carriages were still out. I told several carriage drivers that the temperature hit 90. They needed to take the horses off the streets. The drivers heckled me and pointed toward the ASPCA van at Grand Army Plaza. Basically, what they were saying is that it was not their concern.

I walked over to the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement (HLE) Officer, introduced myself, and asked him why the carriage horses were still out on the street. He said that there was a horse in distress and this was his first priority. My first thought was why is there only one humane officer assigned to 68 medallions and the whole of Central Park? The officer was able to ask a handful of drivers near the plaza to finish their rides within a half hour and go back to the stables (surprisingly, the law allows carriages with passengers to continue their rides, as long as they finish within a half hour. Then they must take the horses back to the stable. This is a big loophole, since a driver with an empty carriage can pick up passengers before he is seen and officially notified by the HLE officer. This gives him the opportunity to stay on the streets for another half hour or more, depending on when the humane officer sees and informs him.) This actually happened.

horse sideAn empty carriage picked up two passengers. I told the driver that the order was given by the ASPCA. He ignored me, but the people in the carriage didn't. They got out. I thanked them. There was another carriage on the plaza that was empty, # 1068. It was parked in the sun. The driver denied that it was 90 and managed to spew a few insults along the way. I felt the horse's skin. It was hot and dry. Not a good sign. I told the driver this and asked him why the horse had no access to water. The driver brushed it off, "I am a professional." (edit. note: According to records on file with the Department of Consumer Affairs, medallion #1068 belongs to Lorenzo Riccobono - the very same Riccobono who has racked up several convictions of animal cruelty in Pennsylvania and owned the carriage that was involved in the January 2, 2006 accident in which Spotty died.)

Meanwhile, the distressed horse - turns out her name is Susie - was brought into the shade. The HLE Officer had to ask the driver twice to remove her tack and take the carriage off her back. Then the officer poured water on Susie to cool her down. Two NYPD officers joined him (where were they earlier?) Her head was still down, she looked weak, she had difficulty breathing. A second HLE Officer joined him later. After an hour or so, Susie became stronger. She was cooled down enough to be taken in an ASPCA trailer back to the stable. However, before she was led into the trailer, the two HLE Officers took pictures of each other, smiling, with Susie. Was it for PR purposes-ASPCA saves the day?

But what is the real story? Why doesn't the ASPCA understand that the truly heroic act would be to admit that the regulations are not working? The job isn't getting done. Why are they celebrating when they are only too aware of what the carriage horses must endure day in and day out, including oven-hot stables, stalls that are too small for the horses to lie down, overloaded carriages, exposed ribs, open sores, no water on hot days, pulling carriages alongside trucks, buses and fire engines, exploitation by owners and drivers who seem to have no empathy for these living beings, and the list goes on...

The ultimate responsibility lies with the leadership of the ASPCA. President Ed Sayres claims in a letter he sent to a colleague of mine that they have not pursued a ban because there is no political will to end this practice. But isn't the ASPCA and other animal welfare groups in the business of BUILDING political will? Why is Mr. Sayres allowing this suffering to go on? According to the ASPCA website: "A basic tenet of [ASPCA founder, Henry] Bergh's philosophy, protecting animals was an issue that crossed party lines and class boundaries. To his audience, which included some of Manhattan's most powerful business and government leaders, he stressed, 'This is a matter purely of conscience; it has no perplexing side issues. It is a moral question in all its aspects.'" If Henry Bergh were around today, wouldn't he wonder why these horses are still suffering 140 years later?

to help the carriage horses
To let Ed Sayres/ASPCA President know know how you feel about this issue and the fact that they are not supporting a ban, you may contact him at: