Antique Cars Could Replace Iconic Central Park Horses

Apr 18, 2014 02:47 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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Animal rights activists who are concerned about New York City's signature horse-drawn carriages have introduced a vintage-looking electric car as a potential replacement.

Showcased at the New York Auto Show this weekend, the antique car replicas are intended to substitute for the 200 carriages transporting tourists and a few residents around Central Park, CBS News reported.

"This is New York City and the wow factor has got to be there," Jason Wening, who was hired by animal rights group NYCLASS to develop the car, told local CBS outlet WCBS. "What you are looking at is the type of vehicle that ignited the world's love affair with cars," he said.

NYCLASS has been working for years to stop the carriages and has earned the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Elected in November, de Blasio included a proposed ban on the carriages in his campaign platform.

Some are skeptical that antique cars will hold the same charm as horse-drawn carriages, which help bring in the around 52 million tourists who visit New York City each year and spend $37 billion.

Carriage owner Anita Gerami isn't sold on the idea, telling WCBS that people probably won't want to "take a ride in another car," noting that, "The people come for the horses."

While activists have long opposed the horse-drawn carriages, veterinarians who inspected the horses earlier this year told CBS' MoneyWatch that they saw no signs of animal abuse.

"I didn't see a single horse that didn't show all the signs that we associate with contentment," said Dr. Harry Warner, former chairman of American Association of Equine Practitioners' Equine Welfare Committee.

He added that horses are similar to people in that their temperaments can be suited to city life or not. "No it's not too much stress. ... There are horses who don't want to be a race horse," he told MoneyWatch. "There are horses that don't want to chase cattle."

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