NEW YORK (AFP) - New York reached a deal late on Sunday (Jan 17) that will almost halve the number of horses licensed to perform carriage rides in Central Park after the mayor called them inhumane to animals.
The agreement, which will keep the industry alive, comes after Mayor Bill de Blasio promised two years ago to abolish the rides popular with tourists, loved-up couples and immortalised in movies.
The deal, which will start to come into effect from June 1 and take three years to be fully implemented, will reduce from 180 to 110 the number of licensed horses by Dec 1, the city council said.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the number to 95 and to give 75 horses a long-term home in Central Park stables, therefore banning public horse rides on the streets of Manhattan.
"We are pleased to have reached an agreement in concept on the future of New York's horse carriage industry," said the mayor's office said.
"We look forward to working together on the final details of this legislation and getting this passed," it added in a statement.
The agreement demands that by Oct 1, 2018, stables will be established in Central Park to house 68 carriages and 75 horses, the city council said.
Horses not at work must be on furlough outside the city, and no carriage can operate for longer than nine hours a day by Dec 1.
NYClass, one of the groups demanding a ban on carriage rides, has collected more than 35,800 signatures in an online petition.
The petition calls the carriage horse industry "cruel, inhumane and unsafe" and demands the horses to be retired to sanctuaries.
"Horses do not belong in a congested, urban setting where they constantly breathe exhaust while dodging dangerous traffic," it says.
The group could not be reached for comment.