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NEW YORK – Actors Rooney and Kate Mara, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais and other celebrities are joining the Animal Legal Defense Fund in an open letter calling on the New York City Council to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city. Momentum continues to build for legislative action following a viral video of an elderly 28-30-year-old horse named Ryder collapsing on a New York street in the heat of summer on August 10, 2022. Polling by John Zogby Strategies. and launched by Animal Rights Voters after the incident found that 71 percent of New York City voters supported the ban proposed by more than a dozen City Council members.
The letter notes, “The now-viral video of Ryder on a New York street is heartbreaking, infuriating and disturbing. Ryder, an elderly, exhausted horse, collapses on 9th Avenue while pulling a carriage. The world witnessed the coach driver try to force Ryder to stand until he could barely hold his head up. The video is hard to watch for good reason – this is not the way animals should be treated.”
Celebrities who signed the letter include: Maggie Baird, Geezer Butler, Kaley Cuoco, Noah Cyrus, Whitney Cummings, Billie Eilish, Edie Falco, Phineas, Ricky Gervais, Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Riley Keough, Kesha, Kate Mara, Rooney Mara, Joaquin Phoenix, Christian Serratos, Sarah Silverman, Sadie Cink, Christian Siriano, Hilary Swank, Justin Theroux, Marisa Tomei, Until the Tape Breaks and Christopher Walken.
“Ryder’s suffering is impossible to deny. His state of emaciation, dehydration and utter exhaustion is not the result of a day, week or month of abuse, but rather a prolonged period of neglect, forced to pull carts on crowded city streets,” says Animal Legal Fund Executive Director Steven Wales. “We’ve reached a tipping point and it’s time for the New York City Council to follow the will of the voters and enact a ban.”
On July 14, 2022, Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) introduced legislation that Introduction 573, which would have ended the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York by banning new licenses and replacing the carriages with electric options. The electric trolley alternative provides a safe and responsible option for walking in Central Park and certain areas of Manhattan. The bill currently has 14 sponsors, including City Council members Christopher Marte, Keith Powers, Eric D. Boettcher and Tiffany Caban.
“I appreciate all the concerned advocates, both celebrities and non-celebrities, who are speaking out in favor of my bill to move to clean, humane horseless carriages and provide better-paying jobs for carriage drivers,” said Council Member Robert Holden . “These abused horses cannot speak for themselves, so we are their voice. New York has always been at the forefront of innovation and culture, but we lag behind when it comes to these poor horses. It’s time to be a model for other cities to follow. Introduction 573 will be transmitted with the help of animal lovers around the world.”
The legislative proposal is the latest attempt to offer some relief of horses forced to work in the carriage industry following the Horse Heat Relief Bill passed in 2019. Despite attempts to strengthen protections for horses working in hazardous conditions caused by traffic and weather, regulation is not enough to to enforce standards of care and protect them from being forced to work in the appalling conditions they continue to endure.
The letter continued: “Ryder is an individual, but his situation is not unique. Media stories, smartphones and police reports have documented traumatized horses running through traffic and other carriage-related incidents too numerous to count spanning decades. Tragic results for horses haunt the history of New York, as well as other cities across the country. Horses, carriage passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and others are at risk from this cruel and reckless industry. We say: No more.
The letter calls on New York to set an example for other cities to follow. Several cities — including Salt Lake City, Chicago, Camden, Treasure Island, Pompano Beach, Palm Beach, Key West and Biloxi — have already banned horse-drawn carriages.
Read the full letter here.