Animal rights advocates cried foul after a carriage horse dropped dead near Central Park over the weekend, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg stirred up a new controversy Wednesday when he said most of the city's equine workers "probably wouldn't be alive if they didn't have a job." NY1’s Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Many tourists love the horse-drawn carriages that line Central Park, but some New Yorkers do not. For years animal rights activists have fought to keep the carriages out of Central Park and off the streets of New York.
The latest tragedy — a horse collapsed and died Sunday — has drawn more attention to the cause.
“It is time that New York City took the lead from other major cities, like London, Paris, Toronto and Beijing, who have taken horse-drawn carriages out of their congested city centers,” said Donny Moss, a filmmaker who made a documentary about the horse carriage industry.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the industry, but his response to last weekend's horse death is rankling some advocates.
“The horses here are supervised by the health department and the ASPCA. They are well taken care of. Most of them probably wouldn't be alive if they didn't have a job,” said Bloomberg.
Moss said the mayor is wrong and that people have offered to rescue the horses and give them a humane retirement.
“It's very frustrating to hear the mayor say that these horses would be slaughtered and that's a reason to keep this trade alive,” said Moss.
Horse-drawn carriage driver Peter Wilson said life is good for his horse, Spirit.
“I mean, he gets more time off than me,” said Wilson.
Wilson said the mayor is right: if these horses were not working, they might not be alive.
“This is a big animal. You can see his eyes. You can imagine how much it is going to cost for his food and his shoes and grooming him. And his rent is expensive,” said Wilson.
Despite the mayor's position, industry opponents are refusing to throw in the towel.
Efforts to ban the carriages have stalled out at City Hall. Advocates are now hoping legislation in Albany will be more successful.