The Carriage Horse Debate In New York City

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Today’s session is about The Carriage Horses in New York City.
New Yorker has always been at the forefront of important social issues — pushing for progress instead of holding on to the antiquated past.

But despite our history as a leading city for progressive change, whenever a new idea is brought forward in the name of improving the lives of New Yorkers there are still those who fight against progress in the name of “this is how we’ve always done it.”

Think back to 2003, when New York City banned smoking in bars and restaurants. While that measure was being debated, a sizeable percentage of New Yorkers predicted nothing short of economic Armageddon. They argued that our city’s hospitality industry would be destroyed and thousands of people would lose their jobs. Obviously, the end result of the smoking ban could not be further from that imagined result.

Bars and restaurants are still wildly successful and we have seen cities, states and even countries follow our lead. Today, it’s regarded as one of the most successful public health initiatives in our city’s history.
And now, eleven short years later, we find ourselves in a similar debate, this time over the future of the carriage horse industry. We have seen the horse carriage issue rocket to the forefront of the New York political discussion and for good reason – horses have been killed or severely injured while on the job, and drivers have been caught mistreating their animals. Tourists have been sent to the hospital with broken bones, and local residents have sustained property damage.

While I understand the romanticism and nostalgia of a ride through Central Park, the argument of tradition is no excuse for the continued inhumane treatment of carriage horses that are forced to live nose-to-tailpipe lives while navigating dangerous midtown traffic.

But we also hear that we can’t rid the horse carriages from New York streets because it will cost jobs. Everyone agrees that no one should lose their jobs as we transition carriage horse off of our streets. Thankfully, there’s a realistic, economically viable, safe and humane alternative that will both remove the horses from the streets and allow all drivers to keep their jobs.

Replacing horse-drawn carriages with new, safe, humane antique electric vehicles is a plan that is supported by Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Recently, NYCLASS unveiled a prototype for this new electric “Horseless eCarriage.” And it will allow us to finally retire the horses to loving adoption homes, in partnership with the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, and many other organizations that have all committed to providing lifetime care for every single carriage horse when the industry comes to an end.

The prototype, unveiled to wide fanfare at the New York Auto Show, will provide a realistic compromise for those who want to ensure carriage drivers keep their jobs while also putting an end to the inhumanity associated with the carriage horse trade. It’s a solution that works for all New Yorkers – two legged and four legged.

Horse drawn carriages simply do not fit in an urban environment like New York City. These streets are already dangerous for pedestrians and drivers and they become even worse when a horse drawn carriage is brought into the mix.

Mayor de Blasio has strongly confirmed his commitment to end the carriage horse industry in New York. And we are confident in the Mayor’s commitment. Like the mayor, we are not looking to put hardworking New Yorkers out of work. We’re looking to make progress by creating a new industry – one that respects the rights of both people and animals.

Animals advocates can help – if you live in NYC, write a quick letter to your Council Member at If you live outside the city, sign the petition at

Allie Feldman
Executive Director
twitter @nyclass

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