Could this be the final nail in the Carriage Horse coffin? One of the beleaguered beasts apparently became spooked during this morning's commute, knocking his adjoining carriage into traffic on 8th Avenue between 57th and 58th streets.
Melissa Ripke told us she was on the way to her internship at the Hearst Tower around 10:15 a.m. when she heard a loud noise. She turned and saw the tipped-over carriage, with emergency responders crowding the scene and an understandably shaken horse standing nearby. Passersby remarked that the horse looked young, perhaps not yet sufficiently nerve-deadened to withstand the Manhattan din. "I think he got spooked or something, and kind of went crazy," she said.
An FDNY spokesperson said the department arrived at the scene at 10:17 a.m., but that there were no apparent injuries.
Allie Feldman, the executive director of NYCLASS, an advocacy group committed to ending the carriage horse industry, told us that this is the 19th carriage accident in the past two and a half years. She'd heard from various sources that this morning's incident was possibly the result of the horse getting hit by a car, or that it had broken free from its reins—she clarified that it would take some time to piece together the specifics of what happened.
One thing she knows for certain, however, is that the industry has to end.
"Horses don't belong in an urban setting when they're at risk of being hit by cars, trucks and buses," she said, adding that sending a 1,200 pound animal down crowded city streets is "an accident waiting to happen."
"There's no way to test how a horse is going to react to oncoming traffic— there no horse traffic lane in New York City. There are no airbags," she said.
"Is that really the kind of risk we want to put horses and residents in?"
Update: Edita Birnkrant, the New York Director of the group Friends of Animals, sent us the following:
Friends of Animals has been working for many years to ban the carriage horse industry and get the horses into sanctuaries, and this latest accident shows the absolute critical need for a ban to happen immediately. I spoke to many witnesses who said people on the street were screaming and running in fear while the horse was out of control and nearly ran onto the crowded sidewalk.
We are very concerned about the condition of the horse, who was seen bleeding from the leg and who had the heavy carriage on top of him for several minutes. I contacted the ASPCA humane law enforcement division and they told me they are sending an officer to check on the condition of the horse today. Friends of Animals is calling for the owners of the horse to release him to a sanctuary and get him off NYC streets for good. We would gladly pay the fee to transport and care for this horse to ensure his safety.