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Carriage Horse Controversy Swirls After Fresh Allegations Of Abuse

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Carriage horses are again the center of controversy in New York City.

Animal activists say a horse has been forced to work despite being emaciated and having open wounds.

As CBS2's Thalia Perez reports, it was a war of words between animal activists alleging abuse of a carriage horse named Michelle and those dismissing the allegations as false.

They took to the street outside the West Side Livery Stable on West 38th Street, where Michelle the horse has lived for the past two years.

"Imagine her agony. Sores all over her body. Covered up, rubbed, and suffocated by ill fitting horse tack chained to her body," said Edita Brinkrant, executive director of NYCLASS.

Among the protesters: PETA, NYCLASS, and GOP mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa.

"It's torture," Sliwa said.

They're demanding that the 12-year-old horse be released to live out her days on a farm, or sanctuary, after enduring of what they call abuse. Caroline Plank shared photos with Perez she says she took Sunday after she stumbled upon Michelle during a jog in Central Park.

"It's blatant abuse. It's disgusting that we are letting this happen to a living feeling being," Plank said.

Plank, along with protesters, say they've made numerous complaints to city agencies that have fallen on deaf ears.

But Christina Hansen, a New York City carriage driver and spokeswoman for the carriage industry, says there's no abuse, and the photos have been doctored.

"The vet came to the stable and performed a body condition and assessment," Hansen said.

Hansen disputes any claim that she or any other horse are working under extreme conditions.

Hansen also says carriage horses are banned from working in extreme heat or cold. So on a day like Thursday, there's not a carriage in sight in Central Park.

Hansen told Perez that Michelle is no longer working and is on vacation for the next five weeks on a farm in Pennsylvania. This while both a spokesperson for the NYPD and Health Department say they are investigating.

A spokesperson from mayoral candidate Eric Adams' office says "there should be room for conversation to see how do we transition out of using horse carriages."

Thalia Perez contributed to this report. 

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