As a veterinarian, I was appointed to the five member Rental Horse Licensing and Protection Board for New York City in 2007, and served as its chairperson until April 2013. The Board is charged with overseeing the welfare of the carriage horses and rental horses in riding stables throughout the five boroughs. We inspected all five of the stables housing the carriage horses, as well as considering all other factors contributing to their wellbeing.
We found the conditions under which the carriage horses live and work to be quite good. These horses and their owners and handlers have been scrutinized for years by the Department of Health by whom they are licensed. In addition, the ASPCA regularly observes the horses while they are working and in their stables. Extensive regulations exist concerning the hours they can work, the temperatures and other weather condition restrictions when they must not work, and many other regulations concerning their housing, veterinary examinations, vacation schedules, licensing, and other factors affecting their well-being. These regulations are strictly enforced. Because of the pressures they have been under for years from humane groups, the carriage industry has strived to maintain these high standards.
Despite all this, these humane groups have continued to demand that the carriage horse rides be ended. Under Mayor Bloomberg this was unlikely to happen as he supported them, but with the new mayor’s open opposition, they are facing the very real possibility that they will be forced out of business. It is very easy to convince the general public who know nothing about horses or carriage driving that these horses are being mistreated.
I have had the opportunity to observe these horses both at work and in their stables and I am convinced that they are well-treated, that they enjoy their work, and that they certainly would *not* be better off if they were forced into “retirement”. Not to mention the many people who have been in this industry for years, some for generations, who would lose their livelihood.
Please try to support them in any way you can.
Susan McLellan, DVM
(Dr. McLellan is a past member of the NYC Rental Horse Advisory Board and past president of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society.)