Two Carriage Horse Accidents Just Days After NYC Mayor Signs Industry Bill

Horse drawn carriage in NYC

Update May 16, 2010: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Intro 35A into law on April 27, 2010.

On May 1, 2010 a horse pulling a carriage in Columbus Circle was spooked and ran into oncoming traffic, sideswiping cars as he ran pulling a carriage. Then just 2 days ago, there was another accident.

Intro 35A is an industry supported law that gives drivers a rate increase. The new law as far as the horses are concerned, is little more than a bandaid on a practice that should be banned. (Go here to read transcripts of hearings held on this bill and records of the votes by city council members.) 

Highlights of Intro 35A (Other current regulations are set forth below.) 

Horses are required to have a bridle and halter when pulling a carriage and tethers must be "secured by the use of a rope attached to the halter, not to the bit or bridle."  Standing stalls for carriage horses must be 60 sq. ft. or larger, with a minimum width of 7 ft., and allow a horse to turn around and "safely lay down" within the stall. Horses must be un-tied when stabled.  

Carriage horses are to receive at least 5 weeks of "vacation or furlough" each year "at a horse stable facility which allows daily access to paddock or pasture turnout". Proof of such vacation or furlough shall be provided upon request to the department and/or the ASPCA. Not much relief. Horses need daily turnout.

Horses must be examined by a veterinarian at the time of each license renewal, and also every 4-8 months, including to determine whether vaccinations are current. "A signed health certificate by the examining veterinarian shall be displayed on the outside of the such horse’s individual stall."  

Carriage horses must be between 5 and 26 years old. "Acceptable proof of age shall include a signed letter from a licensed veterinarian stating the horse’s age, a certificate from an officially recognized national registry of horses stating the horse’s age, or another industry approved method of certifying age". But the age of horses is difficult to determine. It is a virtually meaningless provision that will do nothing to improve the lives of horses exploited by the industry.

Owners are now required to "insure that during the months of November through April every carriage is equipped with a heavy winter horse blanket large enough to cover the horse from crest of neck to top of rump…. Waterproof horse blankets of a lighter material shall be provided at all times to cover the horse from withers to tail during periods of wet weather when the air temperature is 55 degrees or below."  It’s not clear what is meant by a "heavy" blanket and does not add much relief to the current regulations set forth below. This new law offers horses no relief from the heat.

Owners are required to have emergency protocols including emergency contact information available. Operators are only eligible for training if they have a valid driver’s license. New drivers will be placed on probation until they have accrued 80 hours of experience. During that time they can drive carriages only in the vicinity or in Central Park or inside other city parks. Violations of regulations may result in revocation of a probationary license. After 6 months, if there have been no violations, the operator can be granted a regular license.

Horse drawn carriages cannot operate between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m., seven days a week. "At no time shall any horse drawn cab be driven or operated on any street below 34th Street in the borough of Manhattan." 

There are provisions for improving lighting and reflective material on horse drawn carriages and also equipping them with emergency brakes, "unaffected by rain or wet street conditions".

There is no requirement that horses cannot be sold for slaughter.

Intro 92, the bill to ban the carriage industry which was introduced on March 3, 2010 by NYC Council Member Annabel Palma and which would require owners to take steps to protect against slaughter and instead provide a good home humane care and treatment. Despite the enactment of Intro 35A, Intro 92 is still viable! 

Intro 86, the bill to replace the carriage horses with vintage cars but which does not address the issue of what will happen to the horses. 

This is an outmoded industry, a relic of a bygone era, that depends on animal cruelty to operate profitably. It is animal cruelty masquerading as a cherished tradition. Don’t be fooled. It’s time to put an end to this sordid "tradition". For the horses and for the sake of the reputation of a great city. 


Continue to submit 50-75 word letters to the New York Daily News in support of the ban. Send letters to 

Information on the effort in 2008-2009 to ban horse drawn carriages in NYC! 

Original report 2008: New York City council member Tony Avella has introduced a bill to ban horse drawn carriages in the city. 

It is a matter of safety – for the horses.  It is also a matter of humane treatment.

For too long these horses have been exploited to promote tourism in New York. In fact, Mayor Michael Blumenthal was recently quoted as saying to the effect the horse drawn carriages "define" New York, that they should remain a "fixture". 


On December 19, 2008 a horse slipped on ice and fell into a split. In the past two years two other horses have died in accidents while pulling carriages. The most recent fatality occurred when the horse was spooked by street musicians.  In an open letter to the mayor and city council last year, veterinarian Holly Cheever, DVM, documented the cruelty suffered by New York’s carriage horses.  Dr. Cheever points out the busy traffic patterns, hard road surfaces and exhaust fumes cause the horses to suffer at the least respiratory illnesses, heat prostration, hypothermia, dehydration, arthritis, injuries resulting in lameness, and panic or spooking.

According to Coalition for New York City Animals, a carriage horse has a working life of less than 4 years while a police horse will work for approximately 14 years.

Horse drawn vehicles have been banned from London, Paris, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Toronto, and Santa Fe. Go here for a list of other cities that have banned horse drawn carriages. It’s time to do the same in NYC. 

Current Regulations 

There are city regulations for the care and treatment of the now 220 licensed carriage horses, but they are either hard to enforce or there are simply not enough resources to assure compliance. The ASPCA has primary responsibility, and the Department of Health issues permits and registrations for the horses and stables and also conducts inspections. The Department of Consumer Affairs and the NYC police also have jurisdiction over the carriage horse industry.  

The regulations can be found in New York City’s Administrative Code, §§17-326-17-334.1; 19-174-175; and 20-371-20-383. These sections largely concern licensing, identification, operator training, inspections, insurance, lighting, and boarding of passengers for the horse drawn cabs or carriages.

There is a provision for a horse advisory board to address issues relating to health and safety of the carriage horses. Until last week the advisory board was non-existent, however.  But in the face of Council member Avello’s proposed ban and a well-attended rally in support of it this past weekend, the Dept of Health has scrambled to cobble together a horse advisory board comprised of representatives of veterinarians, the horse carriage industry, and the public. The board has now met one time.

There are some limits on the operation of the horse drawn carriages in the city. Except for Thanksgiving, Christmas day and New Year’s Day, horse drawn cabs cannot be driven or operated between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and  10:00 a.m. on Monday through Friday. And, also except for those holidays, from 10:00 a.m. and  9:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday, the operation of the horse drawn cabs is limited to the area inside or immediately adjacent to Central Park. There are also limits on the areas of operation of the carriages on weekends and week day nights and also these holidays. §20-381.1(2), (3), and (4) Horse drawn carriages may never be operated in a tunnel or on a bridge.

With New York’s notoriously heavy traffic, these restrictions are simply not enough to protect the horses. In fact, note there is no restriction on when the horses can be made to travel to and from the park.

§17-329-330 address care and treatment of the horses. Interestingly, §17-329 requires horses to be disposed of in a "humane" manner. Does that include sale at auction to kill buyers who then ship them to slaughter houses?

Horses are not to work more than 9 hours in a 24 hour period including 15 minute breaks every 2 hours. § 17-329-330(g) How can the ASPCA possibly enforce this?

The regulations require "owners" to "insure  that  appropriate and sufficient food and drinking water are available for each horse and that while working each horse is permitted to eat and drink at reasonable intervals". §17-329-330(e) Fresh water must be provided during the mandatory rest periods. §17-329-330(g) Again, is this really enforceable?  

Stables are subject to inspections and must be "adequate" with clean, dry straw or other bedding and "adequate[]" heating and ventilation. §§17-330c, (d), (j). There is no fire protection or sprinkler system required. There are no particular size requirements; some are so small horses cannot turn around or move comfortably or lie down.

Curiously, the regulations do not explicitly stop owners from working horses that are injured or lame. The regulations say only that the ASPCA or the health commissioner’s veterinarian can issue an order preventing an owner from using a horse that is lame or "suffers from a physical condition or illness making it unsuitable for work". But if within 48 hours of the order, the horse is working again without approval of a vet, and is "disabled by the same condition", then the owner is subject to a citation. §17-330(m)

The only other protections required to prevent injury are limits on the speed the horses are driven (no more than a trot) and requirements the "[h]orses shall be suitably trimmed or  shod, and saddles, bridles, bits, road harnesses and any other equipment used on or with a horse at work shall be maintained and properly fitted". §17-330(h),(i)

Owners are required to have the horses examined by a veterinarian "not more than one time each year". §17-330(n)  An odd way to phrase what should be a requirement the horses receive regular veterinary care and especially when needed.

The horses are not allowed to work in temperatures below 18 degrees F and above 90 degrees F, but these restrictions do not take into account wind chill or the heat index. Also, the drivers are not required to carry thermometers. What about the fact that, according to the Commissioner of Transportation, the asphalt on which the horses are forced to stand can reach temperatures of 200 degrees F? Finally, note that owners are allowed up to ½ hour to get horses out of such weather if the temperatures reach such extremes in the middle of a ride. §17-330(n)

A catch all requirement bans horse drawn carriages from the streets during "adverse weather" or "dangerous conditions". §17-330(f) But what does this mean? How is this enforced?

That’s it. Other than New York’s animal cruelty laws, there are no other regulations for these poor horses.

NYC carriage horseConsider the findings of Dr. Holly Cheever who worked as an inspector of the carriage horses and stables, has said she routinely found the horses did not receive adequate water, were given poor hoof care and shoeing, and had harness sores.

Dr. Cheever found the stables were "distressingly inadequate", dirty, and lacking in clean bedding and temperature control and ventilation. The horses were usually kept in tie stalls, narrow spaces where they could not turn around or move comfortably, let alone roll, lie down or scratch. She decried the lack of opportunity for turn out: "The horses had no opportunity to perform natural movements or experience normal socialization, so necessary for a herd animal, for their entire lives in this industry."

Update Jan. 31, 2009: The New York City Council Consumer Affairs Committee held a hearing before a standing room only crowd yesterday on Intro 658, a bill to ban horse drawn carraiges in the city and an industry bill, Intro-653-A. 

Read the testimony submitted to the committee.

Opponents of the ban said closing down the industry means a loss of jobs in a tough economic time. Other opponents insisted horse drawn carriage rides are part of the history and culture of New York. 

But history and culture have never been reasons to continue outmoded, cruel practices. Slavery, child labor, and animal fighting are examples. As Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D., ASPCA told a crowd outside the hearing room, "It’s time [horse drawn carriages] went the way of bustles and gasoline lamps".

Despite broad public support demonstrated at this hearing, Intro- 658, the ban, is in jeopardy. The horse drawn carriage drivers belong to the Teamsters Union which has brought considerable political power to the opposition to this bill. 

Also, the chairperson of the committee, council member Leroy Comrie’s seemed to show considerable deference to opponents of the ban, even allowing them to cheer or boo though he would not permit supporters to do so. Comrie also allowed opponents to laugh at a small girl who sang a song in support of the ban, and he ridiculed the fact she is home schooled. 

As the video below shows, these horses continue to work in abysmal and dangerous conditions. Read Elizabeth Forel’s article, Let Carriage Horses Run Free: It’s time to Ban the Practice in New York City.  Join the effort to stop the cruelty to these animals.

3 thoughts on “Two Carriage Horse Accidents Just Days After NYC Mayor Signs Industry Bill”

  1. I totally agree with the video, if it weren’t for use who care where would the animals be, im creating my on petition for my town, i truly do believe we should help ban these terrible jobs, what happened to taxis? Hey lets all gather as many signatures as we can and each tell the ny daily how many we got. Have you tried that yet?

  2. We rescue draft horses that are trained to drive. This is their life. We also have a therapeutic riding and driving center for disabled children and adults. Our driving horses have a purpose and help us even out our lack of donations at times. We provide horse drawn vehicles for weddings, events, proms, picnics, go to the MDA and other camps for disabled children and work downtown in historic areas. We are so very careful with our horses and they are in top notch care. They have water and hay available at all times and stand in shade. We never work in extreme heat or cold or dangerous weather. They go home that night and are NOT put in stalls.
    NYC’s horses CAN be regulated to help the horses. Instead of stopping an entire industry, regulate it and have volunteers check on them. Having a Vet certify the horse’s age and health every six months is how our city has our contract. Our vehicles are inspected as well. Carriage horses should not bolt or they are not ready to be carriage horses. Give out license’s for drivers to assure their skills. Make it happen instead of ruining this life for so many of us owner operators that are great and care about how our horses are treated. I have worked 10 years and even PETA members have remarked about how well our horse is treated and acts and looks.

  3. I do agree that horse drawn carriages has to be ban. What are we waiting for?, more accidents perhaps?. How many blind and insensitive people are still on earth. The reality is that many olders live in nursing homes, even having children of their own, why people should care for horses?, I care for senior citizens and I care for horses, they do not have a voice, and they can not complaint about, cold, heat, been tired, or ill. We, people with good feelings talk for them. It can be proben very easily through videos, pictures and newspapers that, horses work even with iced weather evading ambulances, die in the street in accidents cause by humans and because of that humans could also died. In this case the driver was most likely off talking with his friends that sometimes horses are left unattended by irresponsible drivers like the Houston carriage horse that was rescued from a storm drain because the driver left her to get a slice of pizza, and are also auctioned to be slaughter, when they are supposed to end their “happy working life”, after being abused by humans in a sanctuary, and it is not true. That is the case of Bobby who was happily rescued from being auctioned to a slaughter house and actually is enjoying his life in a farm after being healed because he was sick and infected, he is one of the many horses that suffer every day. Can you probe the opposite?. PROBE IT. NEW YORK’S TRADITION IS TO MAKE ANIMALS SUFFER?, so do we have to continue with the tradition?, besides that if the horses are sick, like Bobby was, he had to wait one whole year to be treated due to the owners are required to have the horses examined by a veterinarian no more than once a year, not even mentioning the findings of Dr. Holly Cheever who worked as an inspector of the carriage horses and stables, has said SHE ROUTINELY found the horses did not receive adequate water, were given poor hoof care and shoeing, and had harness sores, Dr. Cheever also found that the stables were “distressingly inadequate”, dirty and lacking in clean bedding and temperature control and ventilation. The horses were usually kept in tie stalls, narrow spaces were they could not turn around or move comftably, let alone roll, lie down or scratch. The horses had no opportunity to perform natural movements or experience normal socialization, so necessary for a herd animal, for their entire lives in this industry. If you consider normal all this situations and conditions, I think that the ASPCA should check on your dog if you have one.PP

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