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Video: Carriage horses suffering in heat wave

July 20, 2010

A New York-based equine welfare group says horses are suffering in 90-degree heat as carriage drivers defy the law and continue to work them.

The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages says carriage drivers are getting away with breaking the law by taking their horses out when it is above 90 degrees and ignoring the American SPCA's directives.

"New York City has been suffering through one of its worst heat waves in some time. June provided a hint of the weather to come, but since the beginning of July, the city has endured very excessive temperatures and humidity," the coalition's Elizabeth Forel said.

According to ASPCA regulations, carriage horses are not to work when the temperature is above 90 degrees. However, the coalition says, this rule is policed by ASPCA officers who must make that determination by using a special thermometer, which no other city agency has access to. "If they are not on site at the hack line at Central Park South and Fifth Avenue the drivers can continue to work."

"Horses suffer more than humans do in the hot weather, according to a recent study by the University of Guelph," Forel said.

In the study, animal and exercise physiologist Professor Michael Lindinger said: "It only takes 17 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in hot, humid weather to raise a horse's temperature to dangerous levels. That's three to 10 times faster than in humans. Horses feel the heat much worse than we do."

A complaint was made to the coalition on July 4 about carriages working in Central Park in 92-93 degree heat after 9pm. The complainant said: "Two carriages did the round. They are also at 59th/CPS parked now during the fireworks. It's 90 degrees. And they are in the streets going up CPW. So it's business as usual." The ASPCA was not available to check the temperature.

Last Friday, ASPCA officers sent carriage drivers back to their stables when the temperature first reached 90 degrees, but at 5.27pm, the horses were again being worked in Central Park. "According to NY1 and for zip 10022, it was about 92-93 degrees. Our informant - reported this to 311 and was told to call the ASPCA," the coalition said.

When the ASPCA suspends the trade on a particular day, they are the only ones who can cancel that suspension.

"She called the ASPCA who came to the site by 6.30pm, when they sent the horses in again. They claim they never cancelled the suspension. (The informant) also tried to get the Parks Department involved but they said they were not designated to take the temperature, nor did they have access to the special thermometer.

"In Rome, which has a carriage trade that is unpopular with the locals, from June to September, the horses are not allowed to work between 1 and 4pm because of the heat," Forel said.

"At least the Italians know that the horses should not be working during the hottest part of the day. What is wrong with NYC? These horses should not be working in this weather. This is a blight on NYC's image."



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