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ASPCA allows horses to work illegally during storm

December 21st, 2008 · No Comments


December 21, 2008

Stacy Wolf, Esq.
Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel

Dear Ms. Wolf:

Thank you for your quick reply, which is attached below.

The ASPCA cannot shift the blame for Friday’s events to the law.    If the ASPCA wanted to “prevent the cruelty” of horses being forced to work in a storm, what stopped you from calling the stables at 9:00 a.m. to tell the drivers they would be ticketed if they picked up passengers once the impending storm started (at 10:00)?

Also, if you are going to use the administrative code to justify your inaction during an emergency, shouldn’t you be calling an emergency meeting with the DOH to amend the code?

Furthermore, how can you use the text of the law to justify ASPCA’s abysmal response to the storm when the carriage drivers break the law every day* in front of the ASPCA with no repercussions?

In your letter, you state that the “ASPCA agents ordered the carriage horse drivers to stop working as soon as the weather became ‘adverse'”.   The weather became adverse when the storm started at 10:00 a.m.   Why did the agents wait until 11:00?  When ice is accumulating on the streets and on the their manes, every minute counts, especially in light of the horses’ treacherous commute “home.”

At 11:50 a.m., almost an hour after the HLE agent told the carriage drivers to leave, I told him that drivers still were taking new passengers just a couple hundred feet away.  He angrily responded that he was pulling the drivers off the streets in shifts.    Almost two hours into a brutal winter storm, shouldn’t he have been ticketing the many remaining drivers (instead of shaking hands with them)?  Were any summons issued on Friday?

You state in your letter below that you share “enforcement authority” with the DOH, DCA, the Parks Department and the Police.  Surely you know that all of these groups refer people back to the ASPCA when they are contacted about cruelty to the horses.  The ASPCA has established itself as the sole enforcer of humane law and has given your donors and the general public the impression that you’re protecting the horses.  But you’re not.  The presence of an ASPCA vehicle near carriages also gives the false impression that the horses are treated well.   This facade of humane law enforcement is helping to perpetuate the status quo.

Cruelty toward the NYC carriage horses is as bad as ever, and the ASPCA is complicit.   Along with many others, I will continue to expose the ASPCA’s charade (even if it means being horse-whipped by carriage drivers) until you use your powerful voice to publicly state that you can no longer enforce humane law for an industry that’s inherently inhumane and demand a ban on the grounds of animal cruelty and public safety.

Once again, here’s what took place on the ASPCA’s watch:

Donny Moss

*Even when the HLE agent is present, the carriage drivers deny their horses access to water, work them during adverse weather conditions, serve them wet and contaminated food, and deprive them of mandated breaks.

Driving into oncoming traffic during winter storm

Sitting in traffic

Business as usual

Metal shoes on slippery street

Carriage driver illegally soliciting customers during storm

Ski goggles

Subject:     Criticism of ASPCA for carriage horse operation yesterday, December 19th
Date:     December 20, 2008 9:05:43 PM EST (CA)

I write in response to your emails indicating that The ASPCA is at fault for not preventing the carriage horses from going out to work yesterday morning, December 19th.  The law does not authorize The ASPCA (or DOH, DCA, the Parks Department or the Police, who also have enforcement authority) to order carriage horse drivers to refrain from leaving the stables in anticipation of forecasted bad weather. The authority to order carriage horse drivers to cease working and return to the stables only applies once there are “adverse weather or other dangerous conditions” which are a threat to the health or safety of the horse, driver, rider or the public.  The law defines  “adverse weather conditions” to include (but not be limited to) “snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions”.  [NYC Adm Code 17-440 (f); 24 RCNY sec. 4-05 (b)]

As soon as the weather became “adverse” yesterday, Dr. Corey and ASPCA agents ordered the carriage horse drivers to stop working and to return to the stables. They did so once they arrived at Central Park yesterday morning, parked at Grand Army Plaza and began approaching each driver to tell them to stop working. This began at approximately 11 am and took about 45 minutes to complete. At approximately 11:30 am, the agents called in to the ASPCA HLE office via radio to report the official suspension. After speaking to all of the drivers, Dr. Corey and the agents drove around the park to ensure that all of the drivers were leaving. Dr. Corey and the agents did not themselves leave until they had confirmed that all carriages were gone from Central Park South and from the park. Another shift of ASPCA agents worked into the night last night to ensure that carriage horses remained off the streets and out of work during the storm.

While The ASPCA would prefer that the carriage horse owners and drivers refrain from working when bad weather threatens, our enforcement authority simply does not extend to ordering them to do so. Within the confines of existing law, Dr. Corey and our agents acted promptly to suspend the carriages once the “adverse” or “dangerous” conditions required by the law were established.

The ASPCA supports revision to the existing code and regulations to provide greater protections to the carriage horses, including expanding the authority to prohibit operation in anticipation of stormy weather.  Until such change occurs however, we can only enforce the laws that exist today, not laws that we all prefer were in place.


Stacy Wolf, Esq.
Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel
Humane Law Enforcement


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