Animal rights activists say NYC carriage horses reported to duty during heat advisory

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CENTRAL PARK – Under sweltering heat that surpassed 90 degrees, the city’s carriage horses reported for duty along Central Park South Monday morning, according to animal rights activists.

In timestamped video provided to PIX11 by animal rights activist group NYCLASS, the carriage horses could be seen pounding the pavement well before 10 a.m. – an apparent violation of the administrative code.

“They want to be out here early to make a few extra bucks and possibly get a few extra rides but they are breaking the law,” Edita Birnkrant, executive director for NYCLASS told PIX11 News.

Birnkrant documented what she described as the harsh conditions the animals regularly endure under intense weather.

“Right now my phone says its 91 degrees and feels like 98 degrees and the city is nowhere to be found,” she said. “These horses are languishing in this heat.”

An operator, who only identified himself as “Jay,” saw the situation differently, refuting the claims.

“She got problems, man – don’t believe her,” the man said, referring to Birnkrant. “We are licensed by the New York City Health Department and I am a veterinarian as well – I know what my horse wants if something happens.”

PIX11 could not verify whether the man was indeed a certified veterinarian.

According to New York City administrative code, carriage horses must immediately stop working and return to the stables when the temperature reaches 90 degrees.

It’s exactly what happened at 12:16 p.m. Monday, when every operator received an alert.

Though most operators heeding the suspension, it still doesn’t explain why some carriages were on the streets before 10 a.m.

In a statement to PIX11 News, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Health said the DOH “will investigate this report and will issue violations if any infractions are found.”

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Following the airing of this story, the Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park issued a statement to PIX11.

According to Christina Hansen, Communications Liaison of Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park, “Once again (as it happen EVERY summer) NYCLASS misleads the people and the press about the laws protecting our horses, and implies, wrongly, that we do not take care of our horses in the heat.”

“Once we receive notification of a heat suspension, we return to the stable, cool our horses off with nice cool showers, and tend to their needs.”

Referencing 17-330(o)1-5 of the NYC Administrative Code, Hansen refutes NYCLASS’s claims, saying “Carriage horses begin work at 10 AM. They are allowed, by law, to leave the stable at 9:30 AM. Therefore there is nothing illegal or untoward about carriage horses being in Columbus Circle before 10 AM, and in fact you will find carriage horses leaving the stable at 9:30 AM on every weekday of the year, regardless of weather.”

*The original version of this story did not include a response from the Historic Horse-Drawn Carriages of Central Park.

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