A witness claims he saw a carriage horse driver overwork a horse until it collapsed in the middle of a Midtown street last week, sparking outrage from various anti-carriage horse groups. “I’m 100 percent positive,” witness Bogdan Paul Angheluta, who snapped the photo above, told The Post about the incident. “He was forcing [the horse] to make the light. The horse was tired."
Angheluta came upon the scene at 50th Street and 12th Avenue around 2 a.m. on September 2nd. He saw the driver, whose name hasn't been released, "screaming for the horse to make the green light" just outside nightclub Space Ibiza. The horse then collapsed, and was “breathing slow and hard.” The horse lay in the street for more than 20 minutes, with one conscientious police officer stopping traffic, then getting on his knees and "cradling the horse’s head and trying to calm him down."
Angheluta sent his photos to the animal-rights group NYCLASS, which alerted the NYPD, the Mayor’s Office and the Health Department. They released this statement about the incident:
It is outrageous that in the year 2016, there are still carriage horses collapsing on Hell's Kitchen streets at 2:00 AM. Mayor de Blasio has epically failed our city's gentle giants. This Mayor has said nothing about the injured horse, despite claiming that he’s an advocate for animals. His excuses for lack of action are lamer than an overworked carriage horse.
Had this witness not come forward to report the incident to animal advocates, the public never would have known it even happened. How many other horse incidents have been hidden from the public? We are calling on city officials to allow an independent veterinarian to examine the horse, and calling on Mayor de Blasio to stop with the same old empty rhetoric and keep his promise to protect these horses.
Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the carriage industry, said in a statement that the horse "didn’t collapse, he tripped himself...He’s kind of a klutz." A Health Department spokesperson echoed that to the Post: "We found that the horse had tripped and fell."
The Coalition To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages wasn't convinced by their statement: "Sure he did, Christina. Sure he did. And the Department of Health took her word for it rather than calling in an outside vet to determine what happened and grilling the driver. No surprise there. The carriage industry continues to be one of the most protected businesses in this city."
They added that they spoke to a second witness to the incident, who told them, "This was so violent and sad. I called 911 and the operator sent the police. Please investigate this because it can probably help with the ban on HDC. It's so sad that this had to happen and I never want to see such terrible mistreatment of animals ever again."
In response to the incident, NYCLASS plan on protesting Mayor de Blasio at Gracie Mansion this Thursday—you can find information about that here.
The carriage horse issue continues to cause problems for de Blasio, who angered anti-carriage horse organizations for not keeping his campaign promise to ban horse carriages. In February, de Blasio's attempt at a compromise imploded after the City Council decided it would not vote on a controversial deal that would have restricted horse-drawn carriage operations to Central Park, thereby banning pedicabs from operating in the park below 86th Street. And in April, the Manhattan DA's office and the FBI began an investigation focusing in part on a $100,000 donation made by an anti-horse-carriage-industry group to de Blasio's now-disbanded Campaign for One New York.
Update: Hansen sent a longer a statement about the condition of the horse, whose name is Norman, and her interview with the driver, which you can read below.
I spoke with Norman's driver, and got a full accounting of what happened last week when Norman tripped and fell.
Norman bucked by the Hustler Club on the West Side Highway, and got his hind foot caught on the shaft. The driver stopped Norman and got down to his head. Because he was only around the corner, he called another driver at the stable for help to get Norman's foot off the shaft. While he was waiting for help, the witness showed up and started taking pictures, cursing at the driver, and calling him ugly names.
Norman got tired of standing on 3 legs and [laid] down, which broke one of the shafts. Per the driver's training, he wanted to unhook Norman from the shafts, but he couldn't leave the horse's head, so he motioned for the witness to come help him. (Note that the driver is Turkish, and hand gestures for "come here" are what you see in the pic. In Turkey, one motions to come essentially upside down from our way of motioning, with their palm facing out and down.)
The other driver and the stableman arrived quickly (this incident lasted only a few minutes, if that), and helped the driver get Norman up, and walk him around the corner to the stable. The driver and stableman checked Norman for soundness and injury. No injuries were found and Norman was sound. Norman's owner arrived, checked that Norman was ok, and called Dr. Farrell in the morning to have him examined and blood work done. (Blood work and everything came back normal.)
The driver is very upset by the whole incident, and how it is being portrayed from a single picture (the witness was there taking many, MANY photos).
The driver did everything he was supposed to do in such a situation, calling for help and maintaining control of Norman, while giving him the best care. We dispute completely the account made by the witness, except for the time and location of the incident. Clearly, the witness who took many pictures but only posted one, has an anti-carriage agenda and interpretation of events based on his ideology and not on any professional knowledge of carriage horse care.