UNION SQUARE — Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for an official autopsy to determine the cause of death of a white horse who keeled over near Central Park on Sunday.
The horse dropped dead near West 54th Street and Eighth Avenue as it made its way to start a shift carting tourists around the park in carriages. The mayor said Wednesday at an unrelated press conference near Union Square that his office was looking into the matter.
Animal advocates have been up in arms since the death occurred, but Bloomberg dismissed those complaints Wednesday. He noted that the carriage trade is a booming tourist industry, contributing huge amounts in tax dollars to the city.
Those carriage-drawing gigs are also keeping these horses alive, he added.
“Most of them wouldn’t have been alive if they didn’t have a job,” Bloomberg said.
The mayor did not elaborate on why the lives of the horses would be contingent upon their employment, and the subject of the question and answer session soon turned to Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall Street protesters.
After the horse kicked the bucket on Sunday, a spokesman for the Carriage Association of New York told the Daily News that while the death was a tragedy, it was an isolated incident.
"It's not something that happens regularly,” the spokesman said. “Our horses are taken care of."
The ASPCA said it is investigating the horse's death and that the organization "respectfully disagrees" with Bloomberg's comments on the importance of the carriage horse industry.
"New York City has largely abdicated its responsibility to enforce the laws governing the carriage horse industry," an ASPCA spokesman said in a statement. "The ASPCA believes that carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today’s urban setting, and we welcome more active support and pressure for legislative revisions to laws that will better protect these horses and influence our city leaders."
The fight against carriage horses in New York City is an ongoing one, with activists periodically lashing out against the industry. The American Girl Place store on Fifth Avenue recently nixed a plan to take customers on carriage rides after boisterous protesters lashed out at the store.