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Horse interests on LI mixed regarding NYC carriage horse ban

Dan Mathews, center, the senior vice president of

Dan Mathews, center, the senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Jillian Michaels, star of NBC's "Biggest Loser" and a lifelong equestrian, second from right, chant during a PETA Rally on the steps of City Hall on Monday, April 29, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

The debate over whether to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City has garnered national attention, with regional groups -- including those on Long Island -- weighing in and becoming stakeholders.

The Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen's Association, the Muttontown Horsemen's Association and the Paumanok Riding Club Monday announced their support of city carriage drivers, saying a ban could set a precedent for the prohibition of racing and other horse activities.

The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, meanwhile, joined a City Hall rally Monday calling on undecided legislators on the City Council to back a ban. Group representative Michelle Alvarez said it would take in some retired horses and called the carriage industry "cruel and inhumane."

The rally drew about 100 demonstrators, including members of PETA, New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, and NBC's "The Biggest Loser" star Jillian Michaels. Some waved posters with graphic images of injured carriage horses.

"By nature, horses are prey animals and . . . they do not belong in congested city traffic on the streets of Manhattan," Michaels said.

A bill has not yet been introduced, though Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio support a ban. "I welcome any and all support for them," de Blasio reiterated Monday of carriage horses at an unrelated event.

Paumanok Riding Club co-founder Jerry Trapani, of North Great River, a carriage driver, said he supports his "brothers and sisters" in the city. He said the horses are well-treated and their rate of traffic injuries and deaths is relatively low.

"If any of these radical animal-rights people get this ban put through, they could start looking to ban other horse disciplines, showing, racing, playing polo," he said.

Denise Speizio, of Ridge, president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen's Association, called the idea that carriage horses could retire in a "dream pasture" a "fallacy." "It would be upsetting to us if people started to believe that horses should be free and non-working and should be pets," she said. "They're not happy if they're not working."

A Siena College poll earlier this month found 59 percent of New York City voters oppose a ban on carriage horses. Newsday last month reported that at least 27 of the City Council's 51 members either oppose a ban or are undecided. With Ivan Pereira

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