NATION -- October 17, 2013 at 11:40 AM ET
New York City's horse and buggy industry risks extinction
After the upcoming New York City mayoral election, a quintessential Big Apple experience could become a thing of the past.
Central Park horse and buggy rides have long been the subject of criticism from animal rights groups and now the city maybe be joining the opposition. The top candidates in the mayoral race both support replacing horses with a man-made alternative.
"We are in the biggest, densest urban area in North America. It is not a place for horses. They are not meant to be in traffic jams," said Bill de Blasio, the Democrat front-runner, at a press conference with New York Class, an animal rights group.
De Blasio's Republican opponent Joe Lhota is also open to swapping horses with an alternative, such as 8-seat electric cars.
New York carriage drivers believe the horses are treated humanely and replacing them with an electric option would take away from a classic New York City experience.
"People come to us for the clip-clop," said Christina Hansen, a carriage driver from Kentucky. "Nobody wants to pet a fender."
The carriage drivers also argue that the industry is very well regulated with maximum working hours, veterinarian check-ups and yearly farm visits.
Opponents of the horse and buggy rides say the safety of the horses is a major reason to stop the practice. Only three horses have died in traffic accidents in the last 30 years, but 19 have been injured in accidents in the past two years.
City residents appear mixed on the issue, with some supporting a horse-less option, while others feel it would be a shame to lose the tradition.