December 11, 2006
Honorable Meyera Oberndorf
Virginia Beach Mayor
Virginia Beach City Council
2401 Courthouse Dr.
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
Re: Opposition to horse-drawn carriages in Virginia Beach
Dear Mayor Oberndorf and Councilors:
My name is Elizabeth Forel and I am the Director of the Coalition to
Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York City. On behalf of our Coalition,
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to submit comments in
support of not allowing horse-drawn carriages to operate in Virginia
Beach. Our organization came into being after a tragic and gruesome
accident in Manhattan on a wet and icy night in January, 2006, in which
a young horse spooked from a loud noise, ran out of control and crashed
into a car. The horse died; the driver was thrown and ended up in a coma
and the two car passengers were hospitalized.
The public has responded very favorably to our campaign. People from
over 40 countries and every state in the nation - including quite a few
from Virginia - have eagerly signed our petition to outlaw this industry
in NYC. Tourists from Virginia often like to remind us that Virginia is
horse country and that they know how to treat horses. They hate to see
the carriage horses on Central Park South . The time for horse drawn
carriages as entertainment has passed. Actually it was never
"entertainment" - and it went out with the 1800s.
The people who want to see an end to this exploitative industry are not
"animal rights" activists per se. But they are people from every walk of
life who have compassion for the horses and simply cannot stand to see
these sad horses pulling overloaded carriages - stuck between the shafts
of their carriages for a long shift; wearing blinders - not even able to
scratch an itch. On Central Park South in NYC, the strong horse
excrement odor hits you in the face - just as it will in Virginia Beach.
If you do not see the horses, you will certainly smell them - since the
Sanitation Department cannot keep up with the mess - regardless of the
use of "diapers."
Horse urine and feces has permeated the streets by the
park causing a very unpleasant odor. Are you prepared to spend all the
extra money to pay for the proper enforcement - the monitoring of horse
health issues; license issuing and monitoring; over site of stables;
sanitation; enforcement of regulations; negotiating disputes? Is it fair
to taxpayers that they have to absorb this extra municipal cost?
NYC has many rules and regulations that cover this industry - from the
number of people allowed in a cab, to the areas in which the carriages
are allowed to go and when; to temperature controls; to stable controls.
Many of the regulations are not strong enough - but they are all
extremely difficult to enforce. This is an industry that is out of
control. It is not unusual to see horses out in snowy, slippery weather;
to see carriages overloaded or to see horses in areas in which they are
not allowed. There are simply not enough enforcement agents or
government employees to oversee this industry -- particularly when the
purpose of the industry is to make as much money as possible on the
backs of the horses and they will cut corners when no one is looking.
Issues like ill fitting tack; overloading; or double shifting - if one
can get away with it -- happens. It happens in New York City and in
virtually every other city that allows this industry to operate. Who is
going to enforce your industry properly? How will you react with your
first accident in which people are injured; or with your first horse
collapse and death?
Last summer in Crete, a very tragic accident involving a carriage horse
and passengers occurred. At a seaside town on a boardwalk, similar to
Virginia Beach, horse-drawn carriages operate. A horse got spooked from
a loud noise, went wild - as horses often do because they are prey
animals - and ran into the sea with the carriage still attached to his
back. The passengers were saved - but the horse could not escape and
drowned. Town officials closed down the operation. However, the drivers
responded by going on strike and starving their horses - so the town
relented and the industry returned. In Virginia Beach, noise from jets,
ships, dogs and general hotel noise could spook a horse. A similar
incident could happen in your community.
We have a new burgeoning industry in New York City - pedicabs - which is
growing by leaps and bounds. These are small cabs that are driven like a
bicycle. Tourists love them. The nice thing about them is that it
involves choice - the drivers choose to do this - and no animal is
Virginia Beach is a beautiful place to visit. It is hard to comprehend
why you would want to add carriage horses as a tourist attraction - why
you are asking for problems. Tourists will not come to Virginia Beach to
take a carriage ride - just as they do not come to NYC to do so. There
are other compelling reasons to travel to both places. However, tourists
may well boycott Virginia Beach and choose to go elsewhere.
Thank you for your consideration.
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