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Carriage horse driver Ian McKeever appears in court on animal cruelty charges

Carriage horse driver appears in court
Carriage horse driver appears in court 02:01

NEW YORK - A carriage horse driver faces charges for the collapse of a horse last summer in Hell's Kitchen that drew national attention. 

Ian McKeever, the carriage horse driver, was in court Wednesday, facing animal cruelty charges. 

His arraignment Wednesday reignited calls for a ban on the industry. 

"How do you live with yourself," one person shouted as McKeever walked out of Manhattan Criminal Court to a crush of cameras. 

McKeever, 54, is accused of abusing carriage horse Ryder to the point of collapse last summer in a case that's drawn worldwide attention. 

"It's politicized," McKeever said. 

"So you haven't harmed any horses?" he was asked. 

"No. I've never harmed a horse in my life, ever," he said. 

Prosecutors say Ryder, who had significant medical issues, should not have been working August 10th, 2022. They allege that once he collapsed, McKeever "repeatedly tried to force him to stand by pulling on the reins, yelling, and using a whip," and at no point provided water. 

Ryder was euthanized several months later due to his medical condition. 

McKeever on Wednesday was charged with one misdemeanor count of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals.  

"This is not just about Ryder. We need accountability for this abusive industry," Edita Birnkrant said. 

Birnkrant is the executive director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS) and is renewing her calls for the city to ban the horse carriages.

"They could shut this down tomorrow. And we are saying enough is enough," Birnkant said. 

The union representing the horse carriage industry called this case an outlier, and says it is now doing more to better care for its horses, including more thorough vet exams. 

"We've formed a safety committee because of this, to make sure drivers and owners know what to do in an emergency, if your horse trips and falls," Christina Hansen of TWU Local 100 said. 

If found guilty on the misdemeanor charge, McKeever could face up to a year in jail. 

There is currently proposed legislation that would phase out horse-drawn carriages and replace them with electric ones

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