A horse pulling a carriage in midtown Manhattan, on its way to Central Park from a stable, collapsed Sunday morning and died on 54th Street.
New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, says that while carriage horses on average live half as long as regular horses, the sudden death of any horse is extremely uncommon.
The carriage horse industry has long been criticized for not providing the open pasture that horses need and for confining them within the shafts of their carriages for at least nine hours every day. Walking on the city's hard pavement causes injuries and lameness in horses, all while breathing in harmful vehicle exhaust, activist Edita Birnkrant has pointed out.
The incident has already sparked outrage, but will any lessons be learned and applied to prevent other animals from suffering in the future? A necropsy is being performed to determine the cause of the horse's death, according to the ASPCA, but many feel it's pretty clear that it is directly related to poor care and treatment by the industry.
The incident has much in common with recent events in Ohio, where dozens of exotic animals (some of them endangered species) were killed last week. People across the nation showed concern for the immediate problem—but rather than expressing sympathy for what's already happened, effort would be better spent ensuring responsible action moving forward.
There's talk of fixing the nation's laws to prevent issues with exotic animals in the first place, but individuals also need to take responsibility for their own actions—for example, does buying a baby monkey to live with you in a Louisiana home really seem like a good idea?
In the case of the carriage horses, would customers who take carriage-horse rides be as interested if they understood how the horses were treated?
And, finally, will the momentum to update laws and fix existing legal loopholes be sustained once the Ohio animals and the carriage horse have been rotated out of the news cycle?
The horse's death this weekend has built momentum for Intro 86, a bill that would phase out the carriage horse industry and replace it with green replicas of classic cars. NYCLASS is using the incident to push for even greater support for the bill and is asking New Yorkers to call their representatives in City Council.