If you have ever walked past a horse-drawn carriage and looked into the eyes of the sad animal at the front, you have most likely been affected in some way. Horse-drawn carriages are unhealthy and downright dangerous for the horses that are forced to walk on the concrete and cobblestones of busy city streets in nearly any weather condition. And yet carriages remain staples in many cities across the U.S., their popularity driven primarily by the sense of romance and nostalgia that they carry.
Nowhere is this more true than in New York City, where horse-drawn carriages line the streets of Central Park, Times Square and other tourist hotspots nearly every day of the year. For years, animal rights advocates have worked to ban horse-drawn carriages with little success. But with the inauguration of new mayor Bill de Blasio, that may soon change.
At a news conference late last month, de Blasio stated his intention to ban horse-drawn carriages from New York City streets. “We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape in New York City,” he said. “They are not humane.”
De Blasio wants to replace horse-drawn carriages with antique-looking electric cars, and give existing carriage operators the option of operating the new vehicles. And animal rights groups have pledged to find new homes for the horses in sanctuaries or private ownership.
Although this is a tremendously promising development, the fight is not over yet. The ban must still be approved by the city council, which could vote on the measure within de Blasio’s first few weeks in office. However, de Blasio reportedly believes that he has enough council votes to pass the ban.
It is also likely that carriage operators will challenge the ban based on the potential cost of purchasing the rights to one of the new antique cars. And one operator says that the cars won’t be nearly as popular as horse-drawn carriages. “People come for the horse, not the tour,” he told MSNBC. “Nobody is going to line up to take an electric car ride.”
Even if that is the case, it doesn’t justify the pain and suffering that these horses experience on a daily basis. Therefore, regardless of the outcome of the proposed ban, it is encouraging that such a high-level and high-profile politician is calling attention to horse-drawn carriages, which animal rights organizations describe as “unnatural, unnecessary and an undeniable strain on the horses’ quality of life.” Hopefully, other cities will soon follow suit.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.