100 activists joined the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and other campaign groups in New York on Friday to hold a candle light vigil for Charlie, a Percheron draft horse who collapsed and died last weekend.
New York Senator Tony Avella and Assembly member Linda Rosenthal were also present, the pair have sponsored a bill which if brought into force would mean a ban on the carriage horses, and the horses would be retired to sanctuary.
During the candle light ceremony, campaigners walked up Central Park South and on to Columbus. They also walked to West 54th street in Manhattan where Charlie died and held a minute's silence. The group then marched to the Clinton Park Stables where the horse was once housed.
The campaigners carried posters of Charlie with them as they walked and flowers were left at the stables.
Elizabeth Forel / Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
Commenting in a press release, Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, said:
“The image of that beautiful white horse lying dead on the dirty streets of New York with his mane fanned out, his mouth open and his legs tied together was both shocking and heartbreaking. The scuff marks on the sidewalk suggested that he was in the throes of agony as he collapsed dying. This image has resonated around the world getting into people’s hearts. We don’t want it to be in vain. It is past time to shut down this inhumane and unsafe industry“
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages was formed in 2006 after the death of a five-year-old carriage horse called Spotty.
I asked the group's president, Elizabeth Forel, if she thought that the death of Charlie would lead to officials taking a closer look at the welfare of the carriage horses.
She told me:
"One never knows about these things. Charlie did not die as a result of a horrific spooking accident as Spotty did in January 2006 - or a spooking event that led to Smoothie's heart attack in September 2007 - he just died on the street and I was even surprised at the outpouring of interest."
"Decision in City government is up to two people - Mayor Bloomberg and Christine Quinn, both of whom support the industry. A ban is not going to happen as long as they are in office. City Council members do not have any real say - when it comes to legislation, they are essentially a rubber stamp."
"We are focusing on the State legislature where we all believe the bill will be handled more fairly."
The cause of death of the carriage horse still isn't known. In an email, a representative from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) told me:
"The pathologists at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine are continuing to run tests and we will provide an update once we have results."