NEW YORK – The horses that pull tourists on leisurely carriage rides through Central Park are working without enough water, shade or oversight from authorities, a city report says.
City agencies haven't kept up with required veterinary checks and carriage inspections, and the horses work in sometimes shoddy conditions, according to the audit issued Wednesday by City Comptroller William Thompson.
"The agencies entrusted with oversight here have dropped the ball," Thompson said.
The report marked the first time the comptroller's office scrutinized the city's monitoring of the carriage horse industry, which has long drawn complaints from animal-rights advocates. The objections intensified last year after Juliet, a horse that spent 17 years taking visitors through the park, collapsed in front of a crowd and died hours later.
Some 221 licensed horses, 293 drivers and 68 licensed carriages offer horse-drawn rides in the city. The audit found that there isn't adequate shade, enough water spigots or drains for waste along Central Park South, where the carriages wait for passengers.
The city Department of Consumer Affairs is in charge of licensing horses, drivers, carriages and stables, while the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is tasked with insuring that horses are able to work. The agencies generally comply with city regulations, but efforts to enforce them are spotty, the audit found.
The health department said Wednesday it would increase inspections and set up an advisory board in the fall. The board has long been required but never established, the audit said.
David Sansoucie, who has seven carriages and more than 16 horses, said the industry generally takes good care of its horses. At Chateau Stables Inc., where he is director of operations, "our horses have a better health care plan than most people," he said.