Horse Drawn Carriages
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Horse Drawn Carriages

Avella carriage ban angers owners
BY M. JUNAID ALAM

Published in the TIMES LEDGER, December 6, 2007:

Incensed by Councilman Tony Avella's (D-Bayside) impending City Council proposal to ban horse and carriage service in Manhattan, industry members, roughly one-sixth of whom are Bayside residents, are lashing out at the councilman and deriding him as "a horse's ass."

"He is running for mayor on our backs through the animal rights people," asserted Stephen Mallone, a Bayside resident who has been in the business for 20 years. "The people of Bayside should be revolting" against the councilman, he said.

Avella says he is sponsoring the bill to ban the service because horses are overworked by the industry. He also asserted that using horses to cart people around in modern traffic is antiquated, pointing to two accidents in the past two years in which horses died as evidence.

"This is actually torture for the animals," he said. "There's a reason horse carriages don't exist in downtown traffic."

Industry members hotly dispute those accusations, claiming the claims are a product of ignorance and political grandstanding.

Mallone said the horses are well-maintained and well-treated, with their condition overseen by a host of city agencies and clear for all passers-by to see.

"It's an absolute travesty to even imply" the horses are maltreated, he said. The horses work six- to seven-hour shifts and average one ride per hour, he said, with a 15-minute rest required by law every two hours. When they can no longer work, the horses are sent to pastures or maintained privately, but not euthanized, he said.

Ian McKeever, owner of Shamrock Stables on 45th Street and 10th Avenue, said the councilman should worry about his own district instead of meddling in Manhattan. About two years ago, he said, Avella visited one of the stables.

"He was very happy and had nothing negative to say, "McKeever said. "Now he's being a horse's ass."

Avella sharply dismissed that assertion, calling it a "total lie." He said he visited stables, inspected conditions and submitted follow-up questions which, he says, were never answered.

The councilman proposed a partial ban on the industry almost two years ago. "The truth has to come out," he said. "These horses are in bad shape. They're downtrodden."

Eva Hughes, a Bayside resident who owns a carriage service and met her husband in the business, said Avella was aligning himself with radical animal rights groups and distorting the facts. "He's the kind of politician who gives politicians a bad name," she said.

Hughes said the two recent horse deaths were the only ones since 1985 and added that the industry has a vested interest in protecting the animals. "They're our livelihood," she said. "Accidents happen, but we have to be allowed to live."

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