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Horse Drawn Carriages

New York City's carriage horses may disappear

Wednesday, 2 January 2008
Horse Deals - Australia

A New York City tourist attraction, the carriage horses lined up at Central Park may soon become a thing of the past if the City Council adopts a proposal to ban it as a tradition cruel to animals.

Council member Tony Avella, a Democrat, introduced the bill in mid-December and Council President Christine Quinn has yet to include it on the board's agenda on an unspecified date, said Avella's press office.

The Horse and Carriage Association of New York representing carriage horse owners has the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who considers the quaint transport an integral part of the Big Apple's tourist appeal. All decked out in plastic flowers for the New Year festivities, some 70 carriage horses do a brisk trade as they parade non-stop up and down the streets of the city.

"I cannot talk, I'm going to reach 15 rides today, it's a record," said a young Turkish coachwoman who came to the United States four years ago. "Tourists give good tips, we make good days," she added as she led her horse to a drinking trough while a Mexican moved his horse up behind her.

Carriage horses are among the city's most popular tourist attractions, along with sidewalk artists and double-decker bus tours. The rides cost 30-40 US dollars (20- 30 euros), warm blankets are provided and convertible tops keep business thriving even if it rains.
After simmering for years, the controversy resurfaced in September when a horse, spooked by the loud drumming of a break-dancing group, bolted and hit a tree, injuring itself so badly it had to be put down.

Avella, who tried to have the carriages restricted to Central Park in a 2005 measure that never took off, re-launched his cause, this time with the support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "As the primary enforcer of New York Cityís carriage horse laws, the ASPCA can no longer accept the status quo," said the society's president, Ed Sayres. "Increased accidents, the recent death of a carriage horse and the city comptrollerís report all underscore the urgency to get these horses off the streets."

Harking back to quieter days, the horse and carriage has fallen victim to real estate speculation that has seen its historical stables on Manhattan's Upper West Side close down, turned into garages or lavishly renovated into historical monuments. The remaining stables are cramped and the long daily rides through legendary New York traffic jams pose a danger to the animals and a source of annoyance to motorists.

"You don't abolish taxis when people die in the traffic," complained carriage driver Henry, from New Jersey. "We have a very good security standard, we make one million rides a year, accidents can occur but they are extremely rare," he added.

Sensing the changing times, small business groups in the city have launched a promising human-powered mode of transport in Manhattan: bicycle rickshaws. 

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