Animal rights activists are hailing it a victory that Ian McKeever, who housed 26 carriages horses at Shamrock Stables on W. 45th Street in Manhattan, is being given the heave ho by the City of New York.
However, the block where the stable sits is wanted for development purposes, including the expansion of a nearby school.
Nevertheless, the carriage horses must move, and many of them have already found a home at Clinton Park Stables, owner and operator Connor McHugh told Tuesday’s Horse in a recent interview.
The carriage horse industry is a hot button issue in New York that touched off a high profile showdown last year between Liam Neeson, who supports it and lobbied on its behalf, and Alec Baldwin, who does not and worked to ban it.
Changes, however, are on the way this year that will keep the horse drawn carriage business in Manhattan for the foreseeable future.
New regulations proposed by the New York City Council, and endorsed by New York Governor David Paterson, will make substantial improvements in the working lives of Manhattan’s carriage horses. Included are a mandatory five weeks’ annual vacation, annual health inspections, accommodation in box stalls, and making it illegal to work after 3 a.m., in weather hotter than 90 degrees, or colder that 18 degrees.
“We welcome making the changes on the Council’s agenda for New York’s carriage horses legally imperative” said McHugh, who pointed out that the horse welfare measures proposed are already being done voluntarily by the license holders. “We are pushing for bi-annual health inspections,” said McHugh, “but that is being met with some resistance from the Health Department.” Of little concern to them, however, are banning horse drawn carriage drivers and their passengers from smoking, and drivers from using cell phones, music players and cameras.
Where carriage horses live when not on duty in Manhattan has always been a main source of complaint, mainly because the buildings, like the Shamrock, are multi-story (although at the Shamrock the horses all occupied the first floor).
“I particularly like the fact the horses will be required to be kept in box stalls so they have plenty of room to move around and lie down comfortably,” said McHugh.
“That’s more important to us,” McHugh pointed out. “Once they walk up the ramp and settle in, it seems to me the horses could care less whether or not they are on the ground floor or second or third. They get out and have more interaction with other horses and people than most horses who work for a living.”
There are 225 horses hauling 68 carriages in and around New York City’s Central Park.