“Intro 573-A is not in the best interest of the horses,” Dr. Cheever says; asks Mayor de Blasio to reconsider
Here is the full text of the insightful statement from Holly Cheever, DVM, an equine expert who has advised 15 municipalities and 2 states in OPPOSITION TO Intro. 573-A.
I wish to express my concerns about the latest proposal on what to do with your city’s controversial, inherently abusive, and anachronistic carriage horse tourist trade. In addition to being a shocking reneging of Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promises, it seems entirely impractical.
I am an equine veterinarian who has been testifying to this council since 1988 in efforts to get the carriage horses out of their inadequate stabling and their unsafe working environments. I have similarly advised approximately 15 municipalities and two states (Massachusetts and Florida), either to support a ban on such misuse of carriage horses or to promulgate proper regulations in appropriate environments—which New York City most emphatically is not—in order to ensure the well-being of the horses.
The current proposal is to confine the industry to Central Park, to restrict the equine population to a large herd of 75 with 68 operating carriages, and to build appropriate stabling to house this huge population. I confess to being shocked that the Central Park Commission is entertaining this proposal, because of the commission’s long entrenched refusal to give up any space to this enterprise. Although this proposal solves one area of equine misuse by getting them off the streets so that they no longer will share the roadways with crowded vehicular traffic, myriad other problems persist, as follows:
· 75 horses, many of them draft breeds: this would be a huge herd for such a small area as Central Park, and if 68 carriages are to be employed, they will create overcrowding and congestion in Park roadways that seriously impact alternate uses of the Park by its visitors, taking up a disproportionate amount of space that park enthusiasts might want for other purposes
· The odor from such a huge herd and its stabling/paddock areas would offend Park users who come for other purposes, especially in hot and humid weather. Not all city dwellers find “farm” odors appealing
· Housing: does the Park truly want to designate such a large percentage of its acreage to this one industry? The proposed stall size of 100 square feet is not adequate for draft breeds—14 x 14 square feet is the preferred size for these animals. I hope it is obvious that the current system of housing horses on 2nd and 3rd floors is completely unacceptable due to the risks to the horses if ever an evacuation is necessary. Therefore, all stalls must be on the ground floor, necessitating a huge stable area if 75 horses are to be housed humanely and safely. The proposed stable for this huge population will require fire-sprinkler systems, state-of-the-art ventilation systems, grain and hay storage, and waste disposal for enormous volumes of soiled bedding and manure. This cannot help but impact the Park’s multiple uses, and will constitute an extraordinary expense
· Turn-out, i.e. paddocks of adequate size to permit the DAILY opportunity for all horses to leave their restrictive housing for exercise and comfort with compatible herd mates, so essential to equine physiological and psychological well-being. The need for this turn-out is essential, and will commit even more of the Park’s limited acreage to this one malodorous industry
· Although the horses will no longer be threatened by vehicular traffic on their park-limited routes, there is always the risk of spooking with any equine animal, and the Park always has large volumes of visitors who could potentially be severely injured by a runaway horse and carriage, especially since so many of the drivers have historically been proven to be inexpert in proper equine management and capable of poor judgement in handling both the horses and their customers
· Even though the horses will not be as directly exposed to the pollution they inhale in their nose-to-tailpipe life on the streets, please note that even before they were forced out of their confinement to the Park in the early 1980’s (or the medallion-owners would be forced to surrender their medallions,) an unpublished study by Dr. Jeffie Roszel (veterinary pathologist) in 1985 revealed that the horses even then had evidence of lung damage from their exposure to exhaust fumes (personal communication 1989.)
In conclusion, I do not support this proposal as it is not in the best interest of the horses, nor a practical use for an inappropriately large area of the Park. I ask Mayor de Blasio to reconsider his abandonment of his campaign promise in order to pander to the carriage horse industry. We are in the 21st century—time to let this anachronism go!
Holly Cheever, DVM
Member, Leadership Council of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
Vice president, NY State Humane Association”