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ASPCA admits lapse in judgment

September 6th, 2011 · 8 Comments


Over the years, I have witnessed NYC’s carriage drivers working their horses in extreme weather conditions – from heat waves to thunderstorms to blizzards – even though the law states that carriage drivers “shall not allow a horse to be worked in snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions.” Recently, I saw the drivers working during the city shutdown in the rainy hours leading up to the arrival Hurricane Irene. (see story below)

NYC carriage horse working during snowstorm

During inclement weather, dozens of New Yorkers, if not more, call the ASPCA and ask them to take the horses out of harm’s way. We’ve learned from experience that, without these calls, the ASPCA will typically allow the carriage drivers to continue working. Is the ASPCA bending over backwards to accommodate the carriage drivers, or is it gross incompetence?

Given the ASPCA’s willingness to allow the carriage drivers to work in adverse conditions and their unwillingness to use their considerable power and influence to take these horses off the streets of NYC, I can’t help but wonder whose side the ASPCA is really on. Seeing an ASPCA humane law enforcement officer “high five” a carriage driver during a blizzard only reinforced this concern — as did Mayor Bloomberg’s statement that the “ASPCA has convinced me that these animals are treated humanely.”

After years of defending their decisions to allow the carriage drivers to work in adverse weather conditions, the ASPCA has finally admitted to a lapse in judgment around Hurricane Irene: “In retrospect we feel we should have imposed the suspension earlier on Saturday to better ensure the safety of the horses.” (see full statement below) However, the ASPCA is simultaneously shifting the blame to the city: “The city has abandoned its responsibility to monitor the carriage horse industry, and so the ASPCA has stepped in to do our best to protect these beautiful animals.” This comment is utterly disingenuous. The ASPCA has not “stepped in.” On the contrary, they have fought tooth and nail to protect their role as enforcers of humane law.

But why does the ASPCA fight to preserve their humane law enforcement power when they readily acknowledge that they can’t do the job? If the ASPCA put the same amount of energy into banning horse-drawn carriages in NYC as they have into preserving their enforcement powers, then the horses would have probably been taken off the streets many years ago.

On their website, the ASPCA states that they support the “legislation to phase out carriage horses in New York City, replacing horse drawn carriages with electric powered classic cars.” Where are these cars? We’ve been hearing about them since 2008. And how can NYC Council Members vote on legislation to replace the carriages with electric cars if they’ve never seen a prototype and have no information about them? Instead of hiding behind this bill that can’t be passed in the foreseeable future, the ASPCA should use their considerable power and influence to demand that our elected officials take these horses off the streets and out of harm’s way right now. If you agree, please ask them to use their resources to ban, instead of enable, this inhumane and unsafe industry in NYC:

Ed Sayres
President and CEO

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

Pamela Corey DVM
Director of Equine Veterinary Services
Humane Law Enforcement


From: ASPCA Public Information Subject: The horse-drawn carriage industry is enabled by the ASPCA
Date: Monday, September 5, 2011, 10:06 AM

Dear Friends of Animals:

We genuinely thank you for your passionate concern for New York’s carriage horses. On Saturday we suspended carriage operations in advance of the City’s evacuation based on the best information available to us as to Irene’s potential impact on the city. Nevertheless, in retrospect we feel we should have imposed the suspension earlier on Saturday to better ensure the safety of the horses. We are committed to learning from this event and will continue to leverage our legal authority and advocacy to improve the lives of these horses while working in such difficult conditions. Unfortunately, the city has abandoned its responsibility to monitor the carriage horse industry, and so the ASPCA has stepped in to do our best to protect these beautiful animals. At the same time, we will continue to use our influence to pass legislation that will take the horses off New York City streets for good. We hope you will support our efforts to end the horse carriage industry in New York City.


ASPCA Public Information

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Suzanne // Sep 8, 2011 at 10:13 am

    The ASPCA is supposed to be protecting animals against abuse, cruelty and stupidity by humans. I don’t see any evidence that they are doing any of this with regards to carriage horses in NYC. These horses are out in all kinds of weather, taking people who should know better but don’t for rides. What kind of fool goes for a carriage ride in a snowstorm or a hurricane? Apparently there are those who find these adverse weather conditions just right for an excursion in an open carriage. And the horses have to suffer because of it. Those who own these animals should be ashamed of themselves for forcing their horses out in all kinds of unfavorable weather conditions. The ASPCA turns a blind eye to this and has for years. They do nothing to help the horses. I wonder why they even try to convince people that they are pro-animal? Their actions speak otherwise. Shame on the ASPCA, on Ed Sayres, on all those who collect fat salaries and do nothing to help the animals they claim to love!!!

  • 2 The Discerning Brute: fashion, food & etiquette for the ethically handsome man » Blog Archive » More Cheese, Shaving Traditions & Work Horse // Sep 8, 2011 at 10:51 am

    […] ** UPDATE** The ASPCA has finally admitted to a lapse in judgment around Hurricane Irene: “In retrospect we feel we should have imposed the suspension earlier on Saturday to better ensure the safety of the horses.” (source) […]

  • 3 virginia handley // Sep 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Henry Bergh, founder of ASPCA who stopped overloaded horse drawn trolleys, threw everybody off and ordered the horses back to the stables (read “Angel in a Top Hat”) would be furious. The horses should not be in downtown traffic under any weather condition and certainly nowhere out with Irene. New Yorkers Cleveland Amory and Dorothy Parker would agree.

  • 4 Equine Abby // Sep 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    The horses should be taken off the streets. There is too much traffic and other hazards for the horses to be safe on the streets.

  • 5 Dave Bernazani // Nov 7, 2011 at 10:15 am

    NYC could easily stop this tomorrow, by passing a ban. New Yorkers need to rally together to demand that they do so. The ASPCA needs to be leading the way on this, and I don’t see that they’re doing ANYthing like that. Also, inside every cab is a fat, clueless tourist. Does the ASPCA press tourism companies to stop advertising carriages? I doubt it. Whenever money is involved, people look the other way.

  • 6 Angela Recker // Feb 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    I find the irony in this very disturbing. The ASPCA was founded to protect working horses & now they condone it by their inaction. I now call the the American Society for the PERPETRATION of Cruelty to Animals. This industry needs to be shut down immediately.
    Mayor Bloomberg also needs to be held responsible for allowing this to continue for so long & denying there is a problem. His desire to cash in on the tourist trade at the expense of the horses is reprehensible. Given his blatant disregsard for the animals at the NYC Animal Care & Control, it demonstartes a dangerous pattern of total disregard for all animals. He should be recalled immediately.

  • 7 Kaushal Senanayake // Apr 28, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Ban the cruel use of horses to satisfy human greed and entertain selfish tourist to NYC. There are viable technology driven and safe alternatives to horse-drawn carriages. The rest of western world has banned the barbaric use horses.

    Shame on you New York for allowing the abuse of animals. As US citizen, I will boycott visiting NYC until the use of horse-drawn carriages is stopped.

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