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Another wrongheaded charge at carriage horses

People protest against the use of carriage horses

People protest against the use of carriage horses at Central Park on April 24, 2014 in New York City. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, a Democrat, made a campaign pledge to ban carriages in Central Park. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Mayor Bill de Blasio's misguided push to ban the Central Park horse carriages apparently still has some wind left. What a shame.

During last year's campaign, de Blasio vowed to stop the carriage trade on "day one" of his administration. But he didn't. That's probably because -- legally -- it's not so easy to shut down a legitimate industry employing several hundred people simply because a few interest groups with deep pockets are howling.

But now the mayor says he will introduce legislation soon in the City Council to put New York on "the pathway to an ultimate ban." We're not sure what that means -- but it doesn't sound good.

Here's what we do know:

A ban remains unpopular. For all the fuss from animal rights groups like New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, New Yorkers want the carriages to continue in the lanes of Central Park. A Quinnipiac poll this month shows 61 percent of New Yorkers against a ban with just 25 percent in favor -- a result virtually unchanged from a survey taken at the start of de Blasio's mayoralty.

The council could buck de Blasio. Brooklyn Councilman Rafael Espinal, who chairs the Consumer Affairs Committee that regulates the carriage industry, opposes a ban. He says eight other council members do, too, while 26 more in the 51-member body are undecided.

The use of carriage horses is not inhumane. In 2010, the council passed rules stipulating five weeks of vacation a year for the horses in places with green pastures and plenty to eat. Horses cannot work when temperatures are above 90 degrees or below 18. And carriage horses can work only if they're between 5 and 26 years old.

The animal rights lobby knows how to bite. During last year's mayoral primary, it helped back a $1-million ad buy attacking former Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She lost. De Blasio's stand against horse carriages firmed up during the race as animal-rights money rolled in.

The horse carriages are an important grace note in a loud and fractious city. De Blasio should let them stay.

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