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Necropsy Planned To Determine How Carriage Horse Died; Animal Cruelty Debate Resurfaces

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The ASPCA said Monday a necropsy is planned to find out what caused a carriage horse to collapse and die in Manhattan.

The debate over Central Park carriage horses has raged for years and the latest incident has brought it to light once again.

"I love the horses. It's one of the reasons I'm walking home through Central Park, around Central Park because you get to see the horses, you get to smell the horses," Bruce Cohen told CBS 2's Derricke Dennis.

"I think it's cruel for the horses to be out on Central Park South. I'd rather see them in the park," Karen Molho said.

The white horse collapsed and later died Sunday around 9:30 a.m. as it trotted toward Central Park, according to the ASPCA.

"We at the ASPCA express our sadness and concern at this tragic incident," the ASPCA said in a statement. "The life of a carriage horse on New York City streets is extremely difficult and life threatening, and the ASPCA has long believed that carriage horses were never meant to live and work in today's urban setting."

But carriage drivers like Erwin Meuse denied any cruelty, saying the horses are fed well, their hours are limited, and they're loved.

"They're treated very well, believe it or not. Otherwise, I wouldn't be in this business," he said.

Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, said the driver should have known there was something wrong with the horse.

"You don't have to be a horse expert to know if something is wrong with your horse or with an animal," she said. "These drivers profess to know so much about their horses, but if they did, shouldn't they have been sensitive enough to know there was something wrong with this horse?"

Its body, which is in the custody of the ASPCA, was taken to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. There, a necropsy will be performed to determine the horse's cause of death.

Forel said the incident is just another reason why the industry needs to be banned.

"Horses don't belong in the city," she said. "It's very upsetting."

"There's nothing romantic about a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. These poor horses ... they're not meant to be working on city streets," activist Mary Culpeper said.

Animal rights activists have been calling for the ban of horse-drawn carriages for years. Supporters of the movement claim it is abusive to the animals.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Tony Avella and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal also called for a ban of horse-drawn carriages, saying the industry is antiquated and barbaric.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is supporting a bill to replace the horses with electric cars.

"Environmentally safe, appealing, a way that we can still attract the tourists, but without the cruelty to animals, and without all the other complications," de Blasio said.

The Horse and Carriage Association of New York called Sunday's incident a "tragedy."

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