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Animal News Desk / Cathy Kangas

Published 10:49 am, Sunday, January 19, 2014
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The latest combatant in the carriage horse fight is actor Liam Neeson, who supports having carriage horses on the streets of New York. Perhaps his support is because many of the carriage horse drivers are his compatriots from Ireland. Maybe he's looking for a controversial issue that will help promote his latest film.

Whatever his reason, he has now thrown his hat into the ring. Celebrities in support of the ban include Alec Baldwin, Mary Tyler Moore, Miley Cyrus and P!nk. Neeson may be on the wrong side of history here.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to ban carriage horses in New York City. People will argue that there have been carriage horses on the streets for more than a century. This may be true, but New York is a different city in 2014. It is no longer safe for these horses to be on our streets.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has terminated its law enforcement division. One of its jobs was to monitor the treatment of carriage horses. There are rules governing when carriage horses can be out on the streets when it is either too hot or too cold. The ASPCA could also examine horses to ensure they were being properly treated.

Can we really expect the overtaxed New York Police Department to now look out for the welfare of carriage horses?

There is also speculation that groups petitioning the de Blasio administration to ban carriage horses are secretly looking to obtain the real estate where the horses are stabled. Others maintain that if the ban is enforced the carriage horses will be sent to slaughter.

I will join with other animal protection groups to ensure that the horses are taken to sanctuaries. I have worked for years with Squirrel Wood Equine Sanctuary in Montgomery, N.Y.

Its leaders believe that the carriage horses will be celebrities and probably be adopted. The Humane Society of the United States has offered a home for carriage horses at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. None of the carriage horses will be sent to slaughter.

The tourism industry is a billion-dollar industry in New York City. Banning carriage horses isn't going to have an impact on tourism.

In fact, I believe it can only help tourism because it positions New York City as a humane place to visit.

Two years ago, when a carriage horse was spooked and bolted, tourists were hurt. This news received worldwide coverage.

Recently, a carriage horse driver was arrested for the inhumane treatment of his animal. This also received international attention.

These stories hurt the city.

De Blasio supports replacing the carriage horses with antique cars. I think that this is an excellent solution and one that should be explored. It would get the horses off the street and offer employment to their drivers.

This is not an issue about jobs or real estate. It is about protecting horses from the dangers of the city streets.

De Blasio campaigned on banning carriage horses and he should keep his promise. The City Council should vote immediately on this issue and end the carriage horse trade.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society of the United States. She can be reached at cathy@praibeauty.com.