Sunday, January 19, 2014

NYC PUBLIC FORUM ON ANIMAL ISSUES ... and Carriage Horses

on the NYC Carriage Horse issue

New York State Senator Tony Avella held a public forum on animal issues on Friday January 17th in New York City  The room was packed and many people provided testimony on a variety of issues - carriage horses, shelter system, foie gras, devocalization, circuses, wildlife, geese slaughter, humane law enforcement.  Connections were made and business cards exchanged.  Senator Avella promised to follow through on several issues.   This is my testimony with additional notes subsequently added:

The horse drawn carriage trade has been the subject of controversy for many years – long before we began our campaign in 2006.  It has always enjoyed the unconditional support of
Animal Protection Forum 1/17/14
past Administrations [1]and although regulated by several agencies, it pretty much operated in a laizzez-faire way – most of the regulations were not enforced.  So we are very pleased that Mayor deBlasio has said he will end the business.  But we are very concerned with the how and when.

These slow-moving dangerous and flimsy conveyances do not belong in the heavily congested streets of NYC in 2014.  Horses are prey animals and are predictably unpredictable – they spook easily and can bolt into traffic causing mayhem.  These sensitive animals become unwitting weapons who can kill or injure themselves or passersby.  Human deaths have happened in other cities[2] and if this business is allowed to continue, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed here.  NYC has so far dodged the bullet.  But this luck will run out if nothing is done.

Since 2006, we have documentation for 34 accidents but we are convinced that many more have occurred.  The law does not require that drivers report an accident; does not require the ASPCA to reveal them to the public; and does not require the NYPD to even make a report at the scene of an accident.  There is no transparency in this business and it is very intentional.

But the public is not stupid.  Since 2006, every online poll taken has revealed that between 75 and 80 percent of respondents want a ban of horse-drawn carriages.  More than 130,000 people have signed our petition in support of the Avella/Rosenthal bill to ban horse-drawn carriages.  These polls were taken in a more neutral environment generally after one of the many carriage accidents happened.  The recent one time only Quinnipiac poll that shows a majority of people being opposed to a ban is the result of several months worth of manipulated pro carriage trade reporting by the media.  it is the result of yellow journalism.    



In the last few weeks, the media has reported on this issue with much misinformation.  They have excluded from the dialog advocates for a ban  and created their own stories favoring the
NYC accident; horse spooked and fell; carriage toppled on him
drivers.  One example is PIX 11 TV in NYC.  Recently  I was invited to be interviewed at their studio supposedly with someone representing the carriage trade.  I was then told they could not get anyone and had to cancel the show.  The next day I saw that they had not canceled the show, but instead had given an exclusive interview to a driver in Clinton park Stable.  She lied her way through the very long piece, unchallenged by the reporter who did not counter  anything she said and obviously did not know the issue.   I contacted them for equal time but was ignored.  

Yellow journalism is alive and well in NYC.  The truth has not gotten out.  It is curious why the media has taken this tact – whether they are in fact still trying to derail Mayor deBlasio as they did before the election; or if they are so afraid of the “animal rights agenda” that they simply cannot allow us to have this victory even at the expense of the long suffering horses.  There may be a lot of truth to this because Governor Cuomo recently signed a bill into law that allows municipalities to make their own laws regarding puppy mills and pet stores.  This is seen as a huge victory for those who care about animals. 

The media has presented the carriage driver as a poor downtrodden, blue collar working class immigrant whose business is being taken away by people who know nothing at all about horses and simply want their stable property. [3] It is the classic David and Goliath story and some people will believe it simply because it is in the media. 

The media also continues to talk about the so-called alternative vintage electric cars.  They do not know or care that the cars have been promised for five years, do not exist and that it is a risky and cost prohibitive investment.  No one in the media does fact checking or even challenges any of this information. 

Nose to tailpipe existence 
Industries become irrelevant and obsolete and it is time to shut this one down.  The best job alternative for the drivers is to have their existing carriages retrofitted with motors.  The cost would be about $15,000 – a fraction of what the electric cars would cost.  This has been done in other cities and can be seen on the web site – www.andrescarriagetours.com.  One of the NYC carriage owners already has one.  The medallion system could stay intact and everyone could keep their job.  The City could pay for the retrofitting in exchange for the horses who can be placed through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, which has done research proving that there are homes available for all the horses.

A word about the carriage horse slaughter scare, which originated with the drivers, promoted by the NY Daily News and exacerbated by Mayor Bloomberg – a scare tactic done to persuade people not to support a ban.  If any of the horses go to the slaughter auctions, make no mistake – it will be the drivers who bring them there.  They do not walk there on their own.  In the spring of 2013, I released a study, which revealed a turnover of 529 horses over 7 ½ years in the NYC carriage trade, averaging 71 horses a year.  Surely some of those horses went onto the auctions and then to Canada for to be slaughtered.  This will be the first time that horses will be guaranteed homes.  This will be the first time that accountability and responsibility for horse lives is required.  

The City Council should forget about Intro 86a, the electric car bill,  because it will not result in a ban and it’s muddying the waters.  The money does not exist to create this new industry  - approximately $12,000,000  - and a three year phase out would be fool hearty and guarantee that there will be no ban.  We do not support this and I am sure this is not what anyone heard when Mayor deBlasio called for a ban.  Intro 92, the unconditional ban bill is the one to reintroduce.

We ask Mayor deBlasio to do what it takes to shut this trade down soon.  We offer our expertise to work with him to make this happen.
  


[1] In 1989 when Local Law 89 was passed, which would have allowed the drivers to only work in Central Park, then Speaker Peter Vallone added a sunset clause to the bill before it went to the Mayor to be signed into law.  The sunset clause caused the bill to expire in 1993.  

In the early 2000s a representative from Vallone’s office (he was still speaker) called the ASPCA and demanded that they not run several full-page ads in the NY Times that were anti-carriage horse trade.  Larry Hawk, who was president at the time, refused to be bullied and the ads ran.  The ASPCA was never able to find anyone to sponsor their strong regulatory bill. 

Mr. Vallone has a  relative named Giovanni Rosario Vallone who owns and operates  a NYC carriage horse medallion and lives in Sicily. 

Linda Gibbs, Deputy Mayor of  Health and Human Services under Michael Bloomberg,  is married to Thomas McMahon, who has been a long time lobbyist for the carriage trade.  Ms. Gibbs also oversaw the Department of Health, which in turn oversaw many of the carriage horse regulations.

Christine Quinn was strongly supported in her quest to become Speaker of the City Council by the late Thomas Manton who had been a City Council Member, Congressman,  and at that time  head of the Queens Democratic party.  Manton was a staunch supporter of the carriage trade and had been referred to as Quinn’s “god father.”   

[2] In 2010, a French tourist was killed in Salsburg, Austria when a spooked carriage horse ran up on the street and trampled her.    

[3] This accusation has finally been debunked.  Steve Nislick, president of NYClass and a real estate developer , has answered the charges made by the carriage trade and the media that he wants the stable property.  He not only said it is not true but that if the  property were  ever to come onto the market, he pledges that he will not bid on it.  He further goes on to say that neither will anyone from his company or organization.
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1 comment:

Heather said...

Very good portrayal of the issues at hand. Thank you for writing this post! Not only are falsehoods a problem in this industry but so is the harassment of individuals who do not agree with the idea of city carriage horses.