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Both Sides of Carriage Debate Use Latest Incident to Showcase Their Position

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Both sides of the raging debate on horse-drawn carriages are using an incident Thursday to showcase their position, as opponents of the industry say it shows horses can't safely work here, while carriage drivers say the horse is fine and is being used as a political pawn. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

The horse named Spartacus is cleared for his chariot...err, carriage.

The horse gets carrots and TLC. Reporters are given Spartacus' veterinarian report. It said the 15-year-old sustained no injuries when he toppled over on Central Park South Wednesday.

"I come over here, I call the doctor right away for an emergency," said Tony Salerno, the driver of the horse carriage.

It looked different when Spartacus was down on the sidewalk. What happened is a matter of dispute. The owner said another carriage caught the wheel, toppling over his carriage, along with Spartacus. No fan of the industry, Mayor Bill de Blasio said a bus spooked the horse.

"Look, every time we talk about this issue, I say I have seen so many of these accidents," de Blasio said. "The one yesterday was not the first one. It was one in a long line of accidents. And it's for a very simple reason. Horses don't belong on the streets of New York City."

Backing him up are animal rights advocates, for once agreeing with a city leader. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, like his predecessors thought the horses were treated fine and were a key to tourism.

A day after the incident, Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan had turned into a virtual town square, of protesters, counter-protesters, a heckler, reporters and a lot of tourists, who looked confused.

Both sides jousted for a bit, but mostly through the press, especially when opponents questioned how much the driver cared about his horse.

"The driver showed no interest in the welfare of his horse, and instead was only concerned with saving his carriage and minimizing the expense of the damage to his carriage," said Ashley Byrne of PETA.

Tony Salerno is the third generation in his family to ride horse carriages.

"I love this horse more than my life. And everybody knows, OK?" he said. "Last night, I didn't even sleep one minute."

With that, Spartacus turned back to his stable, an equine gladiator in a relentless war all about him.

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