As good as it gets?
But it's not all doom and gloom on New York City streets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
regularly visits carriage horse companies to observe basic maintenance and care. Last summer, they consulted with Dr. Jay
Merriam, then Welfare Task Force chairman for AAEP, to gauge how well the working animals were cared for.
"Quite honestly, I didn't see any horses that looked to be in bad condition," Merriam says. "They looked decently cared for
and decently shod, and my talks with the ASPCA convinced me that they had access to good veterinary care. The ASPCA is working
pretty hard on keeping the stable up to snuff in terms of air quality, which is a huge issue."
One of the stable challenges is airflow, as many operators retrofit older building to be stables. High levels of ammonia and
urea build-up can pose greater health concerns than the actual pollution on the city streets if ventilation isn't up to snuff,
"If the EPA would go in and take air-quality tests, then they probably wouldn't allow people to work there," he says. "The
problem is that air-quality stuff is not very romantic. It doesn't get headlines or a lot of attention."
Another concern for the working horses is lack of exercise. Although carriage horses work for a few hours at a time, much
of it is spent standing on the street waiting for a customer. When off duty, they typically return to their stalls, which
doesn't give them a lot of time for appropriate exercise, Merriam says.
"Some municipalities take horses in and out of the city on a monthly basis, to farms and such for exercise. So there are ways
around all this," he says. "But the idea of keeping a horse 365 days a year living in New York City does expose them to an
awful lot of pollution and air-quality problems that can lead to short- and long-term health problems."
Limiting a horse to Central Park is an improvement, Merriam says, but it still doesn't address stall quality or proper exercise.