MANHATTAN — A New York City carriage horse, an SUV and a motorcycle collided on Thursday afternoon in Columbus Circle.
No human injuries were reported, according to the FDNY. But the horse was bleeding from a cut to its head when it was led away from the scene on Thursday and will not return to work until a veterinary exam is completed, an ASPCA spokesman said.
The incident has enraged animal rights activists, who have been pushing the city to abolish the carriage horse industry and possibly even replace the old-fashioned carriages with vintage-style electric cars.
“What animal’s going to be fine after having their face smashed into an SUV?” said Edita Birnkrant, New York director of the advocacy organization Friends of Animals.
“This is going to happen over and over again; we know that,” added Birnkrant, whose organization is among many pushing to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. “I want to challenge Mayor Bloomberg right now. How can you continue to justify this?”
Eva Hughes, vice president of the industry organization Horse and Carriage Association of New York, said the driver of the carriage involved in Thursday’s accident is not a member of the association and so she did not immediately have up-to-date details on the horse’s condition.
“The only thing we’ve heard so far are two minor cuts to the face,” Hughes said.
But Hughes cautioned against using Thursday’s accident as a symbol of a larger safety problem among New York City’s carriage horses.
“There are accidents involving everything that moves and breathes in New York City,” Hughes said.
“This isn’t the first accident, and it won’t be the last,” she added. “[But] our safety record is stellar.”
In the past 30 years, she explained, only three carriage horses have died in traffic accidents.
“This is what I meant about our record being stellar,” she explained. “The accidents in our industry are few and far between.”
Although the horse did not die in Thursday’s crash, Birnkrant, of Friends of Animals, worried that it may still have suffered a debilitating injury.
“Horses legs are fragile, and who knows what kind of damage was done,” Birnkrant said. “If they can’t put this horse back on the street, they’re not going to keep it.”
Currently, there is a bill pending in the New York State Legislature, introduced by State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, that calls to ban carriage horses in New York.
An online petition in support of that bill has attracted more than 121,000 signatures.