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Debate over city carriages lack a lot of horse sense

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POSTED March 25, 2014 11:00 p.m.

Ever walk down a city street and come across the “emissions” from a horse?

It is clear that 21st century urban America doesn’t mix well with antiquated modes of transportation. And unlike responsible dog owners that carry disposable bags on walks with them – there are a few – you won’t see horse riders that make their way down city streets extend the same courtesy.

What’s the big deal, you ask? Stuff like that happens.

It matters as there is a movement afoot in the nation’s big cities to “save” draft horses from a life of drawing carriages. The argument goes that the horses can’t handle the summer heat from the pavement, the noise, or the traffic. That didn’t seem to bother New Yorkers 110 years ago when horses labored for long days in the heat and snow not only as a mode of public transit but as the primary mover of goods.

The horse-drawn carriage eradication movement has been energized by recent efforts to publicize the death of working horses that collapsed while on the job. It’s nothing new. Horses have died while working for 2,000-plus years.  And whether you like it or not, horses die.

The argument, of course, is that they are worked to death and treated inhumanely. They say it’s not natural for horses to be in cities or employed in such endeavors as pulling carriages.

It is a point made by Dan Mathews, a senior vice president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. His exact quote: “This is not life as nature intended for a horse.”

On the surface, that seems logical unless you have a problem with coyotes eating cats. Nature obviously intended for coyotes to eat domestic cats. And nature certainly intended man to use horses for transportation and other chores as that’s been the case since almost the dawn of civilization. Man, regardless of how you view how the world was created, is part of nature.

This is where dogs come into play. Is it natural for dogs to live in cities, especially those where the great outdoors consist primarily of asphalt and concrete? Dogs, while domesticated, arguably were meant to burn off energy and roam outside. Man, for better or worse, decided differently. It wasn’t until the last century that dogs really became indoor animals to the degree they are today.

Dogs, just like horses, have issues with city life. They struggle to handle summer heat. City noises can bother them as many bark/howl at sirens and such. And urban traffic is difficult for them to handle as the number of dogs that get struck by vehicles attest.

So where is the movement to save the dogs of New York City?

I confess. Many years ago on a whim I rented a carriage as a surprise to ferry Cynthia to lunch and back. (She wanted to go thru the drive-up window at Taco Bell.) That means I was a willing participant in animal cruelty, 2014 style.

So what do you do with horses if big cities succeed in banning them from carriage work? There are 1,200 such horses in New York City alone.

Animal rescue groups and individuals have offered to take them. But wait, won’t they be going to places to be fenced in often on an acre or less? Is that what nature intended?

Shouldn’t they be free to roam Nevada, Modoc County in California, and large swaths of other western states? Isn’t that what nature intended?

So what if they devastate fragile vegetation ecosystems, either by eating it or pounding it into the ground with their hoofs. Big deal, you say, if a herd grows too large and starvation sets in due to there not being enough mountain lions to keep numbers in check.

So what if they consume vegetation that other critters in the wild depend upon for their survival.

And let’s not forget the debate about whether nature intended horses to be part of the North America landscape in 2014. Modern horses were introduced to Mexico and Florida from Europe in 1519. Fossil evidence suggests prehistoric horses roamed North America up until about 10,000 years ago when the last ice age hit.

From the looks of things, it seems nature intended man to monkey with nature.

If you don’t share that view, then logic dictates all horses must be eradicated from North America as nature intended until such time they can figure a way to get here on their own.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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