Did Carriage Horse Industry Head Break the Law By Not Returning Horse to Stable?

July 3, 2014 | Amy K. Nelson

At 12:37PM on Wednesday, the NYPD instructed carriage horse drivers based in Central Park to return to their stables due to 90-degree heat. Once the temperature reaches 90 or above, it’s a NYC law that all horses must be brought back to shelter. But carriage driver and industry head Christina Hansen broke the law, according to one of the leading proponents for banning the carriage horses, and who told ANIMAL she captured Hansen on camera returning passengers from a ride 77 minutes after the ban went into effect.

“She should lose her license,” said Allie Feldman, executive director of NYCLASS, the organization campaigning for the ban. “She shouldn’t be a carriage driver. She doesn’t care about the safety of the animals.”

A NYPD spokesperson told us that the decision to have the horses return is made jointly between the NYPD and the NYC Department of Health. Feldman said she lives several blocks away from Central Park and got there around 1:15PM. She noticed that all of the other drivers had left, and was surprised to see Hansen roll up at 1:54, when she captured on camera Hansen returning. Feldman sent ANIMAL a screenshot of the timestamped video.

In the footage Feldman uploaded to YouTube, Hansen is returning from a ride as Feldman narrates, “Spokesperson for the carriage industry. There she is. No other carriages are out at this minute except for…the spokesperson for the carriage industry.”

Alex Moore, a spokesperson for Teamsters Joint Council 16 — the union that represents horse carriage drivers — confirmed it was Hansen in the video. “Christina Hansen cares deeply about the safety of her horses,” he told ANIMAL in an e-mail. “She co-founded a sanctuary for retired carriage horses and is a constant voice for their welfare.”

The guidelines for the timeline of when the drivers must cease operations and bring the horses back are a little unclear. A NYPD spokesperson did not respond to a question about a grace period for drivers, but according to Title 17 Chapter 3 of the Rental Horse Licensing and Protection Law, at “the ride’s conclusion, but no later than one-half hour after the temperature exceeds these limits, the operator must immediately cease working.” A spokesperson for the DoH told ANIMAL that if a carriage horse driver is out with customers, he or she is allowed to finish the ride. And that the drivers are also allowed to rest horse in the shade before returning to the stable. The spokesperson did not specify any numeric times.

Moore said that Hansen did not get the order to suspend operation until she got back to the park, shortly before 2PM, and that she immediately returned the horse. If so, it would appear to violate the 30-minute window.

The issue of banning horse-drawn carriages has been contentious and political. Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to ban the horses within his first week of office and replace them with antique-like electric cars, but has temporarily postponed his decision until the end of the year.

On Wednesday afternoon, two ANIMAL reporters witnessed two carriage horse drivers going downtown. It was 1:30PM.

(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)