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Hearing Set in Animal Legal Defense Fund’s Horse-Drawn Carriage Case
NEW YORK — On Monday, April 28, the New York Supreme Court will hold a hearing in the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund’s (ALDF) case against the New York Police Department (NYPD) for refusing to turn over public records regarding the city’s controversial horse-carriage industry.
In December, 2013, ALDF filed a petition asking the court to force the NYPD to share public records as part of a long-term investigation of the horse carriage industry. Beginning October, 2012, ALDF has filed numerous public records requests under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)—the NY state equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Act. Despite clear evidence of ongoing violations, accidents, and injuries, the NYPD claimed for months that it had no records, although the NYPD is obligated to enforce such regulations under the city health code and state anti-cruelty codes. In February, 2014, under threat of litigation, the NYPD finally admitted it does have records but is unwilling to share them—claiming the records are exempt pursuant to New York’s code of criminal procedure § 160.50. At the hearing, Judge Hagler will review the records and determine whether the NYPD has violated the law. Winston & Strawn is providing pro bono legal assistance for ALDF.
On April 23, a carriage horse was injured in an accident near the Plaza hotel. A bus reportedly startled the horse, who fell onto the sidewalk and was pinned to the ground by the carriage. New York carriage horses are known to be startled at the slightest provocation, which has caused horses to bolt into traffic and seriously injure (sometimes fatally) themselves or nearby humans. Because of these hazards, Mayor de Blasio has vowed to shut down the industry.
“The NYPD is essentially on trial for refusing to adhere to the law—meanwhile, horses have been seriously injured, like we’ve seen this week,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The public deserves to see NYPD’s records of just how many problems result from the inhumane industry of urban horse-drawn carriages.”
Photo: Carriage horse collapsed in the streets of New York City
Copies of the petition are available upon request.