Horse Drawn Carriages
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Horse Drawn Carriages

Audit: Carriage horses work in shoddy conditions

Published in NEWSDAY, September 7, 2007 :

Central Park's horse-drawn carriages stroll through one of the city's most beautiful landscapes but the animals endure some of New York's harshest conditions, according to a report by the city comptroller.

The audit from Comptroller William Thompson found that the animals don't get enough water and walk on blazing asphalt in the summer. Thompson charged two city agencies with strengthening their oversight of the industry.

The report was met with measured praise from animal rights groups.

"No one paid any attention to the problem and it was there for everybody to see," said Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. "It's a disgrace that when the comptroller brings it to light everybody's running to catch up."

At the top of Thompson's list of recommendations was an advisory board to look at issues such as age limits for horses.

The Health Department, which issues permits and registration to the horses and stables, failed to create the board for more than 25 years, he said.

Horses are at risk of heat-exhaustion or worse with limited access to water, Forel said. She also decried the lack of age limits for working horses. Last year, a 17-year-old horse, Juliet, collapsed while pulling a carriage and later died.

The report also said that drainage where they stand all day isn't sufficient, leaving them standing in dirty water.

The city said it is taking the problem seriously. The health department promised to create the board this fall, while the Consumer Affairs department, which licenses the carriages and drivers, has already stepped up horse-drawn carriage inspections.

"The city's coordinated approach to these inspections will help preserve an iconic New York experience," according to a health department statement.

Still, some Central Park drivers felt the industry was already well-regulated, while others welcomed change.

"On the roads there are a lot of holes -- those need to be fixed for the horses," said driver Serkan Antikaci. "And there is no water for horses on Seventh and Eighth Avenue, and in the winter the water fountains are empty."

One carriage owner believed the industry was well-regulated, and questioned Thompson's suggestion to house carriage horses in Central Park to keep them safe.

"All regulations are in place, and there are enough regulations for the horses too," said a an owner of 30 years from Queens who only gave part of his name, Joe S. "And another thing, they will never put stables in Central Park -- it's a landmark."

Freelancer Kristen V. Brown contributed to this story. 

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