Carriage horse collapses in Hell’s Kitchen, renewing calls for reform

A horse and carriage collapsed on a Manhattan street Wednesday night, drawing a crowd of onlookers and a team of police officers who washed it down with water before putting it back on its feet.

The incident occurred around 5 pm when a 14-year-old male horse named Ryder collapsed at 42nd Street and 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, authorities said. Videos taken by eyewitnesses showed Ryder lying motionless in the street as officers sprayed him with a hose before he slowly got to his feet and was led away.

Sean Fedigan was on his dinner break in the area when he came across the scene while officers were tending to the horse.

“I just thought it was unusual,” he told Gothamist on Wednesday. “I’ve seen these horses all over New York City, but usually in the heat, they don’t let them out for that long. And this horse looked young or smaller, so I don’t know if he should have been pulling a buggy on a day like today.”

Fedigan captured the moment the horse finally got up on video.

The NYPD would not confirm what caused the horse to fall and referred all inquiries to representatives of the carriage drivers. Pete Donohue, a spokesman for Transport Workers Union Local 100, the group that represents horse-drawn carriage drivers, said the horse was suffering from equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease horses can contract from eating infected possum droppings. and not from heat exhaustion.

“That’s what it appears to be, according to the expert who examined the horse,” Donohue said, “We urge everyone not to jump to conclusions and automatically assume the worst.”

Ryder, who started working as a horse-drawn carriage around April, was recovering Wednesday night and was reportedly eating and drinking, Donohue said.

Edita Birnkrant, executive director of the nonprofit animal advocacy and political action group NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets), said she received a flood of phone calls and emails from distraught New Yorkers who watched it unfold. the incident.

“People are sick to their stomachs over this,” he said in an interview with Gothamist on Wednesday night. “And so are we. And what is the City Council waiting for?

He added: “We are so far behind so many other cities around the world that have already removed horses from the streets and replaced them with electric carriages.”

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio had tried several times during his two terms in office to ban horse-drawn carriages after campaigning on a promise to do so. While ultimately unsuccessful, the City Council passed a law in 2019 that prohibits horse-drawn carriages from operating when temperatures reach 90 degrees or higher, or when the air temperature is 80 degrees or higher and the heat index equine is 150. or higher.

Mayor Eric Adams has not publicly endorsed a ban on horse-drawn carriages.

Last month, Queens Councilman Robert Holden introduced legislation that would block new licenses and replace the horse-drawn carriage industry with a horseless electric carriage. He reacted to a video of the incident on Wednesday on social media.

“New York is better than this,” he said on Twitter. “My bill would prevent poor horses, like this latest one today, from suffering or dying on our streets, by replacing them with clean, electric carriages like this one. Drivers could work all year and earn more. Drivers and horses deserve better.”

In support of Holden’s legislation, Birnkrant said Wednesday’s events underscored the urgency with which lawmakers must act.

“This is just the latest egregious animal abuse incident to occur openly,” Birnkrant said. “And it’s a perfect example of why we demand that [City Council] Speaker Adrienne Adams and the City Council accelerate Councilmember Bob Holden’s new bill. That would finally end this abuse, cruelty and risk to public safety and replace these horse-drawn carriages with cruelty-free electric carriages that would preserve jobs.”

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