Horse Drawn Carriages
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Horse Drawn Carriages


Robin Finn - 4/4/08

FOLLOW the faint odor of all things equine to the double set of garage doors at 522 West 45th Street. Peek into the dim, shivery insides of a decommissioned firehouse reborn as Shamrock Stables, one of five home bases to New York City's historic but endangered horse-and-carriage trade. The danger faced by these 220 urban beasts of burden and the 293 drivers licensed to pilot their carriages? Pink slips from the city. A disparate coalition that includes the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (the agency that polices the horse-and-carriage industry), the pop singer Pink, and City Councilman Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat and mayoral candidate, wants the industry, a scenic city fixture for 136 years, banned.

EF NOTE: Other than this being a puff piece for the industry and being totally biased, it also included inaccurate and misleading information. For one thing, the law provides that horses may work nine hours a day and seven days a week or 63 hours a week -- not seven hours, 35 hours a week, as the article stated.

The article also claimed that McKeever's horses go on vacation for three to four months a year - a yarn we have heard time and time again with no proof. But more importantly, what is not mentioned in the article is that the horses do not get daily turnout. After being stuck in a very restrictive position between the shafts of their carriage for nine hours, while wearing blinders, they return to their stalls and stay there until the next day when they do it all over again. As herd animals, they are denied the camaraderie of other horses and the enjoyment of rolling, running, playing and just socializing with their own species. It never seems to click with reporters that if what McKeever says about the horses getting a three to four month vacation is true - it means that they are working non stop for eight to nine months. How humane is that?

Another interesting tidbit is that the article states McKeever owns Shamrock Stables. While he may well own the business, he rents the stable from the Board of Education, an entity that benefits from its government status by not paying property taxes. This allegedly is passed on to Shamrock, a for profit business. Hmmm. And the "disparate" coalition of the ASPCA and PETA actually also includes Friends of Animals, HSUS, League of Humane Voters, In Defense of Animals, Rational Animal and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

The present day carriage industry began in the late 1940's - not 136 years ago as McKeever stated. At that time, Mayor William O'Dwyer sold 68 medallions to his cronies - all for a pittance - rather than to lease them as most other cities do. He later resigned in disgrace after a scandal.

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