Sunday, January 3, 2010

NYC Health Dept. Proposes New Regulations for Carriage Horses

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has proposed new updates and revisions to Health Code Article 161 and Chapter 4 of the Commissioner's Regulations concerning carriage horses. A public hearing will be convened on Tuesday, February 3, 2010 at 125 Worth St.

While we understand that the DoH is limited in what they can regulate, we nevertheless applaud their efforts in trying to improve conditions for NYC carriage horses.

However there are some proposed regulations that are window dressing and deserve comments.

It is suggested that horses get five weeks vacation a year. Taken out of context, this sounds good - more than most people get. But here's the rub.

These horses work nine hours a day, seven days a week in congested traffic in all kinds of bad weather conditions. They live in cramped stalls in multistoried warehouses. They are herd animals and need daily turnout - a pasture to run free and socialize with other horses. This does not exist in the barren warehouse buildings where they live. Five weeks of vacation is meaningless in this context because the horses are broken and exhausted by the time they are eligible for a "vacation." This is simply a nod to the industry sanctioning something that is totally unenforceable.

There are many other problems with these proposed regulations including the disingenuous so called smoking ban. The real danger to the horse's lungs comes from living a nose to tailpipe existence, sucking up car and bus exhaust all day. The only way to change that is to ban the industry from operating.

At the same time the proposed regs will prohibit drivers talking on their cell phones, texting, reading newspapers, taking pictures and videos while driving and otherwise not paying attention to the road - something that is very prevalent among the drivers.

We also understand that the Department of Health must follow the lead of the mayor who up to now has supported the industry. But, it still sounds like the City is horsing around with these regulations, trying to placate critics of the industry and some of the Advisory board members at the same time.

This small “industry”, made up of only a couple of hundred people, for some reason has a hold on city politicians. Thinking people, however, know this anachronistic trade can never be made right. The only logical and humane solution is to shut down this business and to retire the horses to sanctuaries - saving them from a life of exploitation pulling unsafe carriages around crowded streets.

We are in a new decade. Let’s make it right for the horses.