A call went out to the supporters of a ban on the horse drawn carriages asking them to contact Senate and Assembly members to support Senate Bill S-667 and Assembly Bill A-997, which would ban the horse drawn carriages. I thought I’d add my two cents:

My name is Laura McFarland-Taylor. I have lived in the tri-state area and worked in NYC for many years and I come “home” as often as I can. I am also a horsewoman and I am writing to you regarding Senate Bill S-667 and Assembly Bill A-997, which would ban the NYC carriage horses. I respectfully request that you do NOT support these bills.

I would like to address two aspects of the bill:

First, this:
“…Since opening up these midtown streets to the horse drawn cabs, numerous accidents have occurred posing grave danger to the animals, passenger’s, motorists and pedestrians. In September 2009 a carriage driver was seriously injured after a taxi on Fifth Avenue collided with a horse carriage in the middle of the afternoon. The taxi crashed into a wall and the horse and carriage careened around a corner and ultimately stopped but only after the driver suffered serious injuries and was taken away by ambulance and hospitalized.

Two years prior in September 2007 a 12 year old horse was spooked by a loud noise while left  unattended and she bolted away became entangled in the carriage wheel as she crashed into a tree. The horse went into shock and died at the scene. Prior to this at least 6 other accidents involving horse carriages occurred following another horse fatality in January 2006 where a horse pulling a carriage became startled and galloped down 9th Avenue for several blocks and collided with a vehicle. This resulted in the ultimate death of the horse and serious injury to the driver of the carriage.  Unfortunately, this has become an all too familiar scenario in the streets of midtown Manhattan and something must finally be done to prevent these situations from occurring.”

 
As an initial observation, without minimizing the death of any horse, or downplaying the seriousness of any injury to a driver, this recitation is seriously misleading. Considering the number of carriage rides given, the number of accidents is remarkably low – and the number of accidents in which a person or horse has been hurt is infinitesimal.

In the past 30 (that’s THIRTY) years three carriage horses that have died as a result of collisions with traffic: Chester (1985), Tony (1990), and Spotty (2006). There have been roughly a half dozen other carriage horses who have died while at work in the past 30 (that’s THIRTY) years – most notably Charlie who died of unknown causes in October 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/cwplyk2), Smoothie in 2007 (from head trauma and shock after spooking into a tree), Juliet in 2007 (colic), and Jackie in 1999 (electrocution thanks to ConEd and stray voltage).

A more serious flaw in the legislation is this:
“S  17-329  Disposition  of  licensed horse.

A. The department shall be notified of the transfer of ownership or other disposition of a licensed horse within [ten] FIVE days thereafter.  Such notice shall include the date of disposition and [if sold in New York city,] the name and address  of  the  buyer  or  other  transferee  and such other information as the  commissioner may prescribe.

B. A horse shall not be  sold  or  disposed  of  except  in  a  humane  manner[.],  WHICH, FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SUBCHAPTER SHALL MEAN ONE OF  THE FOLLOWING:

1. THE OWNER SHALL SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO  A  PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL  WHO SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT  SOLELY  AS  A  COMPANION  ANIMAL AND NOT EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN  CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND WILL BE CARED FOR HUMANELY  FOR  THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE’S NATURAL LIFE; OR

2.  THE  OWNER  SHALL  SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO A DULY INCORPORATED  ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY  INCORPORATED  ANIMAL  PROTECTION  ORGANIZATION  WHOSE  PRESIDENT OR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE  WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT SOLELY AS A COMPANION ANIMAL AND  NOT  EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND  WILL  BE  CARED  FOR  HUMANELY  FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE’S NATURAL  LIFE.

3. RECORDS INDICATING THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE  NUMBER  OF  THE  PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL, DULY INCORPORATED ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY INCORPORATED ANIMAL PROTECTION ORGANIZATION TO  WHOM  THE  HORSE  WAS  SOLD  OR DONATED TOGETHER WITH THE ASSURANCE SPECIFIED ABOVE SHALL BE SENT BY THE  OWNER  TO THE DEPARTMENT WITHIN FIVE DAYS AFTER SUCH SALE OR DONATION. A COPY OF SUCH RECORD SHALL ALSO BE MAINTAINED AT THE STABLE.”
I am a lawyer and I read this and see nothing but red flags, such as:

1. The horses are privately owned; how will the city/state defend the taking of private property? How will the city/state compensate the owners for the confiscation of privately owned property?

2. If the horse is not owned by someone that lives in NYC or New York State, how do you intend to enforce this law?

3. How do you intend to enforce this law against third parties, such as successive purchasers of a horse?

4. Horses can live for more than 30 years and are extremely expensive to care for; if the horse is “donated” to a sanctuary, who will pay for its care?

5. This: “KEPT SOLELY AS A COMPANION ANIMAL…” makes no sense. If a horse can be ridden or worked, the market for a good home is much broader. You may be unaware of it, but the horse market is abysmal and most people cannot afford to keep an animal that costs upwards of $1,000 PER MONTH solely as a “companion animal.”

It may be easy for the anti-carriage horse crowd to say that there are “only” 86 carriage medallions that will be affected should the ban go into effect, but that is simply not true. There are approximately 200 NYC carriage horses, supporting hundreds of families: not just of their owners and drivers, but the vets, farriers, hay and grain suppliers, tack suppliers, stable workers, and on. And let’s not forget the farmer in Pennsylvania that picks up the stable muck for use on his mushroom farm.

In addition, there has NEVER been a carriage horse driver cited for abuse of a carriage horse and there has NEVER been a citation for mistreatment, cruelty, etc. The anti-carriage horse people like to claim that this is because of a “lack of enforcement”, but, again, this is simply not true. There are literally hundreds of people on the street each day watching these horses – it would hardly be possible to hide the claimed abuse or accidents. There is simply nothing abusive about the NYC carriage horse trade. The horses are well-loved and well-cared for, they provide jobs and support to numerous people, and they bring a bit of joy and humanity to the streets of NYC.

I wrote a blog post about what is really behind the push to ban carriage horses (as you may have guessed, it has nothing to do with the horses), which I invite you to read here: https://thebarnrules.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/18/

Again, I respectfully request that you do NOT support these bills. Thank you for your time and attention.

Laura McFarland-Taylor

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