1. The working conditions of the horse are inhumane.
The Carriage Horse Action Committee, which dissolved in 1994, had determined the average working life of a carriage horse in New York City to be under four years, as opposed to a working police horse, which on average serves fifteen years before retirement. Dr. Nina Deibel of Rhineback Equine states,
“By nature, horses are designed to spend at least 16-18 hours a day moving around freely and grazing on grasses and shrubs on a fairly forgiving surface of dirt…horses that are used in a carriage service in a city, such as those in Central Park in New York City, have their wellbeing jeopardized in several ways. First, the pavement on which they stand all day harnessed to their carriages does not absorb the impact of their foot falls thereby sending damaging concussive forces up their legs. This can result in musculoskeletal injuries throughout the horse's body, but particularly in their legs and feet. Secondly, these horses are at risk of damaging their gastro-intestinal tract since they cannot take in a normal amount of roughage and feed. This lifestyle puts them at a high risk to develop gastric ulcers and other stress related health problems. Thirdly, it has been reported to me that some of these horses, when not in service, are kept in straight stalls where they are also tied up and unable to move at their own free will. This significantly contributes to the high stress situation in which they have to exist and further diminishes their physical and mental health and wellbeing."
There is yet to exist a record of the horses receiving adequate farrier care and incidents of lameness. The fact that horses must work in heat until it reaches 90 degrees, or in the cold before it dips to -18 degrees, at on average nine hours a day most days a week, and return to a stable with no opportunity for turnout is a serious reduction of welfare.
2. With around 20 incidents in NYC in the last year, carriages slow traffic on busy city streets, and horses may be spooked, bolt off, and/or crash into cars/pedestrians.
New York City, according to a 2001 census, is one of the most congested cities in the United States and is only worsening to this affect. Pro-ban advocates claim that carriage horses do not belong working on congested streets midtown, as they slow traffic and can lead to accidents.
3. They are housed inhumanely in a stall that is almost half size as is regulation of a normal box stall at 60sqft.
Of the five stables where horses working in New York are housed, many of them have proven they do not have proper fire safety planning, with inadequate sprinkler systems and few exit doors. The stables can be multi-tiered and difficult to evacuate in case of emergency, and the stalls themselves measure on average 60sqft, too small for a horse to move around and live comfortably. According to numerous animal industry standards, for most horses over 15 hands, 144sqft is the minimum dimension, and for draft breeds, as are most carriage horses, 195sqft is a comfortable minimum standard. Thus, the box stalls used in these carriage horse stables are less than half the size of the minimum standard in other working horse industries, in addition to the horses not receiving regular pasture turn-out.
4. The industry is quite difficult to enforce adequately.
The ASPCA through private donation, funds the Humane Law Enforcement program, which is not funded by the government. With 68 carriages and over 200 horses, having so few agents and humane-treatment professionals devoted to inspecting the carriage industry leaves a lot of room for law-bending and the under-education of drivers, owners, and the public on their welfare. The laws, which govern the carriage industry, are dated and unspecific, and the enforcement and responsibility falls on the shoulders of the APSCA, the Police Department of New York, the Department of Health, and the Department of Consumer Affairs. The NYC Administrative Code, which looks at the protection and licensing of horses in the city calls for the formation of an Advisory Board to tackle welfare issues, but has yet to be formed.
5. The location or nature of the “5-week” per year vacation for carriage horses is not officially documented or accounted for.
While horses are intended to have a 5-week furlough to a farm or sanctuary location each year, there is no record of whether these horses are turned out to pasture or exercised. Some sources claim they are put to work on Amish farms, others report they return to NYC looking worse-for-wear. Regardless of hearsay, there is still no formal account of their location or status.
6. There are not sufficient records of what occurs when a horse reaches retirement age.
On average, carriage horses are retired at 26 years of age. While the pro-ban advocates claim that at the end of their term, they are mostly sold at auctions and end up being purchased by slaughterhouses, there are records of some being relinquished to sanctuaries or farms for a peaceful next chapter.