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Aisle Seat: If Horses Could Only Vote

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

An online advertisement beckons Big Apple tourists
An online advertisement beckons Big Apple tourists

My head’s been galloping into equine territory lately:

The horse-carriage industry in particular.

Why are these majestic animals still being abused to provide “romantic” clip-clops through Central Park via congested New York streets? Tourists tucked in with dodgy blankets reused (how many times?) to cover knees?

We use cell phones and earbuds! We’re contemporary! Do we really need to smell horse shit in the putrid city summer?

Ryder, the most recent casualty of the horse-carriage trade, dropped dead two months ago on a steaming August street. Emaciated, beaten, and nearly 30 years old, Ryder was a flesh and blood symbol of horrors that belie these “quaint” tourist spins.

This horrific video of his death on August 10 caused a national and international uproar that’s gaining momentum.

How cruelly ironic that Ryder’s death might finally crush the cruel world that killed him.

Electric carriages would solve the problem, and employees would be offered training and a healthy salary, according to animal-rights


NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets) is nonprofit animal rights organization founded in 2008 and run mostly by volunteers.

NYCLASS and PETA are the main boosters of the legislation, which is also supported by celebrities and influencers.

NYCLASS’s goal: passing legislation (Ryder’s Law Intro 573) that would end the inhumane New York industry. It would ban horse-driven carriages beginning on June 1, 2024.

In an Insider interview on Oct. 28th, NYCLASS Executive Director Edita Birnkrant stressed the importance of being vigilant and directing public attention to the long game.

“We have a lot of dedicated volunteers who will show up at City Hall with very little notice, said Birnkrant. “There’s a whole army of people who care.

“We’re constantly documenting horses in traffic, We’re letting people know the reality.

“The industry would have lied if the video [of Ryder collapsing] didn’t exist, said Birnkrant. “We’re up against people who will lie through their teeth.

“They’re not supposed to be on the West Side Highway, yet people send us videos of carriages.

“Right now, the city council we have is pro-animal and in the best position to pass the law.”

That would benefit the workers as well, Birnkrant said. “No regard to anyone’s safety, the horse, drivers, pedestrians, cyclists,” she stressed.

Robert Holden addresses a crowd at Ninth Avenue and W. 45th Street, where Ryder collapsed
Robert Holden addresses a crowd at Ninth Avenue and W. 45th Street, where Ryder collapsed

New York City Council Member Robert Holden, a Democrat from Queens, is sponsor of Ryder’s Law.

According to Birnkrant, “We have a lot of bipartisan support: socialist, conservative, middle-of-the-road Democrats, the whole political spectrum from the get-go.

“We’re gaining more support and I think more people will be signing after the midterm.”

It’s not just the horses who will benefit, she argued.

“This bill would lift up the workers. It’s cruel, unsafe–with horses crashing into traffic, dropping dead, it’s horrible.

“This legislation will change how the industry operates, there will be better wages, actual employees, not contractors,” Birnkrant said. “They’re being misclassified, legislation would change that. Unfortunately, drivers are fighting it.”

The midterms will (hopefully) trot Ryder’s Law closer to enactment with more pro-animal rights

City Council members on board.

So far, there are 18 co-sponsors on the city council. Twenty-six are needed for a majority vote.

Council Member Holden has pledged to do everything possible to get it passed in the New York City Council.

 The electric carriage--the no-brainer alternative to horse-drawn loads
The electric carriage--the no-brainer alternative to horse-drawn loads

“New Yorkers support ending the horse carriage industry and transitioning into the humane alternative of electric carriages,” said Holden through his spokesman, Daniel Kurzyna.

“The world watched as Ryder collapsed on a hot city street and later passed away due to the abuses at his owner’s hands.

“It’s time for New York to be a leader in animal rights and labor and move this industry into the 21st century.”


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including

1 comment

1 Comment

Nov 17, 2022

Couldn’t agree with you more. Dangerous and cruel.

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