Horse Drawn Carriages
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Horse Drawn Carriages

BID TO BAN HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES The Herald - Scotland - 6 January 2008

David Leask - Dec. 31, 2007 - They are as New York as the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. The horse-drawn carriages of Central Park are an essential - if ever so slightly corny - part of any trip to America's greatest city. But not for long, at least if one politician gets his way. Tony Avella, a city councilman, wants to ban horses from the park, partly because for their sake, and partly because he thinks they could be dangerous. "It's quaint, but the truth is something else." Mr Avella told the Washington Post. "It's very poor treatment for the animals. It's certainly inhumane." Mr Avella, a Democrat who represents part of the outer borough of Queens and who intends to run for mayor in 2009, has formally introduced a bill to the New York city legislature outlawing the horses. That hasn't endeared him to their owners. The Horse and Carriage Association said it was Mr Avella "who should be put out to pasture" and added that "no-one is more invested in the health, safety and welfare of our horses than we are". The group said the carriage drivers were mostly members of Irish and Italian working-class families with a long tradition in the trade. Asked about the horse-drawn carriages, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "These are things that the tourists like and New Yorkers like, and they define a city."

But concerns about the animals' welfare are not new. Mr Avella is backed by charities, including the mainstream Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Campaigners have long worried about conditions in the horses' stables and their long working hours, especially in New York's freezing winters and often scorching summers, each of which coincide with big tourist seasons. There are dangers too, Mr Avella argued. Is 21st century Manhattan really the safest environment for easily startled animals that weigh 1500 lbs each? Lisa Weisberg, of ASPCA, agreed: "Because we just don't feel New York City can provide a safe environment for horses, we decided to come out in favour of the ban." There has been a series of incidents involving the horses in recent years. This autumn a 13-year-old mare named Smoothie was spooked by a member of a break-dancing troupe banging on a drum. The horse ran nearly a block along the pavement on the park's edge before hitting a tree, where it collapsed and died. The commotion startled a second horse, which took off with its carriage still attached, and crashed into a Mercedes-Benz on the busy street. Since then, the Horse and Carriage Association of New York has proposed new "Smoothie's Rules", which include banning musicians from the area around the horses.


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