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Carriage horse collapses of neurological disease in Hell's Kitchen, union says

NYC carriage horse collapse sparks renewed calls for a replacement
NYC carriage horse collapse sparks renewed calls for a replacement 02:32

NEW YORK -- Animal rights activists and concerned city councilmen are renewing calls for horse carriages to be replaced with electric cars after video of a carriage horse who collapsed in Hell's Kitchen went viral.

But as CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Thursday, a spokeswoman for the drivers insists the horse's problems stemmed from an undiagnosed neurological disease.

For many New Yorkers, it was a horrifying spectacle when Ryder, a 14-year-old carriage horse, tripped and fell and couldn't get up for about an hour. Dozens of stunned onlookers watched as the driver was unable to get the horse to stand. The frustrated driver finally called in the NYPD's Mounted Unit, which, fearing dehydration, hosed the horse down.

READ MOREProposed legislation would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City next year  

Admittedly, the picture of Ryder, with his head on a pillow in the middle of Ninth Avenue, tugged at the heart strings. And there were cheers after cops got Ryder on his feet and then walked him into a police trailer for a ride to the stables.

The incident enraged animal rights activists, who said it gave new urgency to their campaign to replace horse-drawn carriages with electric vehicles.

"New Yorkers are tired of seeing horses collapsing in the streets on hot days. New Yorkers are tired of seeing sick horses worked until they drop," said Ashley Byrne, director of outreach for PETA.

"We are better than this. As New Yorkers, we are better than this. The time has long since passed for us to transition away from this industry," City Councilman Eric Bottcher said.

Queens Councilman Robert Holden is the sponsor of legislation to replace the horse-drawn carriages.

"Look, we stopped the circus from abusing animals. Let's, you know, let's stop abusing these horses day in and day out. They're beautiful animals and they should be treated that way," Holden said.

Ryder, who was happily munching hay at his stable on Thursday, was seen by a vet. Christina Hansen, the spokeswoman for the horse carriage industry, said the horse wasn't dehydrated or abused. Blood tests showed he was suffering from a neurological disease caused by eating grass contaminated with possum droppings.

"The best analogy for the public wondering, like, what does this do, it's like shingles," Hansen said.

She said animal rights groups are trying to weaponize the incident to hurt an industry that is popular with tourists.

"I think it's understandable being a political lobbying group, that they would try to exploit this instance and prey on peoples feelings, because we are all upset when we see a horse down in the street," Hansen said.

So here's the really good news: this story has a happy ending. Ryder is gonna be retired.

Mayor Eric Adams says he does not support a horse-carriage ban, but a spokesman told CBS2 he is open to discussing the issue.

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