Carriage horses may be ousted in 2 cities

Published on March 19, 2014
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Leaders of two major U.S. cities have announced their intentions to phase out horse-drawn carriages.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, after his election this past November, said one of his first initiatives would be to replace horse carriages with electric, vintage-replica cars.

“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 during a Dec. 30, 2013, press conference. “They’re not humane; they’re not appropriate to the year 2014; it’s over.”

Then on Feb. 5, Chicago Alderman Edward Burke introduced an ordinance before the city council that would halt renewals of any licenses for horse-drawn carriage operators. He said at the council meeting, “They’re a nuisance, they’re a traffic hazard, it’s cruel to the animals, and we should be able to beat New York City to the punch.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that he generally supports the measure.

As of early March, a bill to ban horse carriages has yet to appear on the New York City Council’s agenda, and no further action had been taken on the Chicago ordinance.

Horse carriage owners and operators oppose such legislation, saying that their industry is already heavily regulated, and their horses are well-protected under current law.

In Chicago, carriage operators must have a certificate of passed inspection with the Department of Animal Care and Control and a horse license, among other requirements.

In New York City, carriage drivers must have a basic knowledge of horse health care, emergency care of horses, proper harnessing, safe driving, and the laws that apply to them. They must also pass a carriage horse driver’s course.

Leaders of other cities, such as San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City, have affirmed that they are keeping their horse-drawn carriages or have strengthened their own rules governing them.

The AVMA policy “Use of Horses in Urban Environments” mirrors the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ similar policy, which acknowledges that these horses “require special work and living conditions and precautions for their safety and well-being” and that provisions should outline work hours, workloads and living conditions, standards of driver training, and passenger safety.