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New Calls For Carriage Horse Ban After Horse Runs Loose In Central Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Animal rights groups have stepped up their calls to ban carriage horses following an incident in Central Park.

Around 5:45 p.m. Monday, a 7-year-old carriage horse named Pumpkin became detached from its bridle and bolted into Central Park, trotting its usual route, CBS 2's Weijia Jiang  reported.

The horse exited at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street near the Plaza Hotel, where a group of carriage drivers was waiting to corral it, Jiang reported.

A bystander jumped on the carriage trying to help, but Pumpkin was startled and collided with the back door of a taxi, Jiang reported.

The bystander did not want to go on camera, but told Smith his sole intention was to keep the horse from hurting anyone else.

New York Mets Outfielder Matt den Dekker witnessed the incident and tweeted "Almost got ran over by a horse carriage running wild through the city."

"I look up and I see a horse carriage coming pretty fast. It went right by me. Saw a guy on a bike chasing it down," den Dekker told CBS 2's Emily Smith. "It was crazy to see that in person."

Andy Peeke said he couldn't help but watch in awe as the horse ran wild.

"It was like 'click clack, click clack, click clack;' and I was like 'holy smokes that's coming really fast, that doesn't sound very safe.' And right as I turned to look I realized the horse is right next to me and there's nobody in the carriage," Peeke said.

An industry spokesman said the incident was handled well.

"Neither the horse or any people were injured," said carriage driver and industry spokesman Stephen Malone. "What you saw is the industry's professionalism. We knew where the horse would go, corralled it, and brought it back to the stable."

But the group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, which is urging a ban on horse carriages, said the incident amounted to evidence that the carriages do not belong in New York City.

"Carriage horses and busy New York City streets simply don't mix," NYCLASS said in a statement. "This is just the latest instance that shows how unsafe horse carriages can be. It's time to retire the carriage horses and replace them with something that doesn't spook or dart dangerously through traffic and pedestrians."

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals echoed NYCLASS' sentiment in a statement.

"A horse running loose in Manhattan traffic is the epitome of an accident waiting to happen. That there wasn't more serious harm -- to the horse, innocent bystanders or property -- is nothing other than simple good luck. The safety of New Yorkers should not depend on mere chance, and this incident underscores the need for an end to carriage horse operations in the city," the ASPCA said.

The group went on to call the use of carriage horses in New York City "unnatural, unnecessary, and an undeniable strain on the horses' quality of life."

However, Christina Hansen with the NYC Carriage Horse Association, witnessed the incident and called it a freak accident.

"Police horses have run off. Parks department horses have run off and they didn't make the news because it's not a political agenda. It's not a political topic," said Hansen.

The ASPCA promised to "find and facilitate humane retirement options for any horse in need of a home" if the carriage horses are banned.

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to ban carriage horses and replace them with vintage-looking electric cars.

"We're considering a range of options that would move the horses off our streets, safeguard the animals and protect the livelihoods of the men and women who provide carriage rides," said Wiley Norvell of the Mayor's office.

The mayor wanted to ban the horses during his first week in office, but said in April that he expects the City Council to ban the practice by year's end.

"I don't think it's a humane practice, I don't think it's smart for the future of the city, I don't think it's safe," de Blasio said in April.

A veterinarian checked Pumpkin out and said he is doing fine. Pumpkin cleared a precautionary blood test and was allowed to return to work, Smith reported.

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