The image of a horse-drawn carriage pulling people through Central Park is quintessential to the tourism scene of New York City. However, this attraction is one that may not be as idyllic as it seems.
The horses pulling these carriages can be subject to unhealthy and unregulated lifestyles in unsafe conditions. The New York City horse carriage industry is regulated by the U.S. Department of Health, but the working horses often lead unhappy and unhealthy lives because of the demands of their careers. The regulations placed on the industry are inadequate and do not prevent the horses from being forced to pull heavy loads through the congested streets of New York City, sometimes even through horrible weather conditions.
The horses work strict nine hour days, only travel above 34th Street and are prohibited from working in extreme conditions. Additionally, each horse is given a five week vacation every year and most horses spend this time in Pennsylvania’s Amish country.
These regulations are extremely helpful in making this industry safer for the horses involved, but they fall short of what is necessary.
Although Central Park is the most popular spot for carriage rides, horse carriage drivers often bring their carriages through streets and to popular tourist destinations in the areas around Central Park. During these times, the horses are exposed to the unhealthy horrors of New York City streets, such as car exhaust. Car exhaust contains, among other things, high levels of carbon monoxide, a substance that is extremely deadly to people and animals alike.
The saddles and restrictive equipment that the horses are required to wear keep their heads lowered to the ground, receiving with every breath for oxygen small amounts of carbon monoxide and other unhealthy chemicals instead. Government regulations should prevent horses from being allowed to work on streets that have vehicular traffic, and instead work only in the beautiful and healthier pathways within the park.
The horses are kept in stables in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of western New York. Government regulations require the individual stables for each horse to be 60 square feet, room enough for the horses to lay down and turn around. Government regulation also requires that a New York City bedroom must be at least 80 square feet, with no wall being less than eight feet tall or wide. Horses, being much larger than humans, should not be kept in stables that are 20 square feet less than the smallest possible New York City bedroom.
In Feb. 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio presented a bill that better regulated the horse carriage industry. This bill proposed that horses be limited to working within Central Park, and some roads within the park would be closed to vehicular traffic for the horses to use.
Additionally, horses would be stabled in the park so that they could be in nature rather than in Hell’s Kitchen. The bill also included some proposals that would aid the industry. For example, the city’s main tourism company, NYC & Company, would promote horse carriage rides in Central Park to its customers. Unfortunately, the bill was not passed by the City Council.
Not only should more restrictions be added to this list, but the existing codes should be more strictly enforced. It is no strange sight to see a horse pulling a carriage through the city even when it feels like the temperature outside is above 90 degrees. Although the government restricts horses from working in temperatures that are fall out of the range of 19 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit, it is clear that these restrictions are not always enforced.
The horse carriage industry is important to New York City’s history and tourism industry. However, measures must be taken to ensure that all participants in this activity are treated equally. While it is not necessary to entirely eliminate the industry, it must be better regulated.