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Trotting on Empty

Advocates push to ban New York City carriage horses

To some, horse-drawn carriage rides are a New York City tradition, an enjoyable way to experience the beauty of Central Park or the bustle of Times Square—and a quintessential Big Apple experience, like watching a game at Yankee Stadium or ascending to the top of the Empire State Building.

Others, though, believe the enjoyment the rides provide isn’t enough to justify the stress the horses experience as they trudge through clusters of honking, exhaust-spewing taxis over asphalt that’s hard on their legs.

For decades, carriage horses have carted people through city streets and Central Park, and the debate has intensified in recent years. The industry wants to carry on a tradition it asserts is safe and nostalgic, while animal welfare advocates are decrying the horses’ “nose-to-tailpipe” existence and calling for the business to be discontinued. The New York City Council, which failed to act on a ban then-council member Tony Avella first proposed in 2007, is reconsidering that proposal and mulling a new bill—one that would phase out the carriages in three years, replacing them with eco-friendly replicas of antique cars.

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