Resources and information to help end abusive horse-drawn carriage businesses.
By Jeff Pierce, Animal Legal
Defense Fund (ALDF)
On December 12 the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the New York Supreme Court asking the court to force the New York Police Department (NYPD) to turn over enforcement records regarding the city’s horse-drawn carriage industry.
In New York City, the horse-carriage industry is causing great suffering for horses and putting people’s lives in danger. New York’s carriage horses labor nine hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine. Often startled in traffic, some bolt along busy streets, causing serious injury to themselves or nearby humans. When not fastened to the carriages, the horses hover uncomfortably in extremely small stalls, and are rarely released to pasture.
That is why today the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a petition with the New York Supreme Court asking the court to force the New York Police Department (NYPD) to turn over enforcement records regarding the city’s horse-drawn carriage industry.
One of NYPD’s duties is to oversee the health and safety of carriage horses, passengers, and passersby in New York City. And yet, NYPD has insisted that, after conducting a “diligent search,” it could find “no records” of its own enforcement. New York’s Department of Health has indicated NYPD does have these enforcement records. ALDF contends that the carriage industry suffers from gross under-regulation, and notes evidence—from the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages—of a pattern of industry violations that disregard regulations designed to protect horse welfare and safety.
It is for these reasons—the inhumane conditions for horses and the grave risk to public safety—that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to ban the industry upon taking office. Similarly, New York State Senator Tony Avella has sponsored a bill that would prohibit the operation of horse-drawn carriages in New York City and mandate the humane relocation of the horses.
Since October 2012, ALDF has filed numerous public records requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)—the NY state equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act—as part of a long-term investigation of the horse carriage industry. In particular, ALDF has requested records concerning NYPD’s obligation to enforce regulations under the City’s health and consumer affairs codes, the State’s anti-cruelty code, and any other laws and regulations respecting the protection of the health, safety and well-being of carriage horses. NYPD claims it has no such records despite evidence of a pattern and practice of ongoing violations. Winston & Strawn is providing pro bono legal assistance for the petitioners.
ALDF, the Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages, Friends of Animals, NYCLASS, the ASPCA, and numerous other animal organizations have long sought to eliminate the horse-drawn carriage industry from New York City.
“Without official records from the NYPD, it is difficult for citizens to evaluate how often horses spook and bolt into traffic causing injury to themselves, passersby, or even nearby cars,” said Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages. “There is great concern that this industry is under-regulated.”
Edita Birnkrant, NY Director of Friends of Animals said, “Our NYC office is located at Columbus Circle, the site of numerous carriage horse accidents. I witness daily the dangerous and chaotic traffic situations the horses are forced to pull carriages in, and often see drivers violating the law, putting both the horses and the public at risk. A ban on this heartless industry is long overdue.”
We at the Animal Legal Defense fund, along with the citizens of New York, hope the Mayor-elect holds true to his word.