On Monday, May 6, 2013 New York City’s first Mayoral Forum on Animal Rights was held at the Union Theological Seminary. The evening was a huge success; over 250 people attended and the Mayoral candidates each spoke in depth regarding their personal standing on animal rights issues.Director of NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets), Allie Feldman, welcomed the audience to the debate. Briefly Allie Feldman spoke of aspirations for NYCLASS and the upcoming candidate for New York City’s mayor.
NYCLASS is a non-profit animal advocacy organization committed to ending the inhumane practices of the New York City carriage horse industry. The organization was founded in 2008 by a combination of passionate animal lovers and business leaders. Feldman had said that not everyone in the room may have the same opinion on specific issues regarding animal rights, however one thing everyone did have in common was that Christine Quinn has not been a friend to animals. After Feldman’s statement, a vast majority of the audience broke into cheers of support. After welcoming the audience Allie Feldman introduced the moderator of the forum, Tom Allon. Tom Allon is a life-long New Yorker and is currently running for mayor New York City. He is currently the President and CEO of Manhattan Media.
Tom Allon gave his appreciation to the 110,000 dedicated supporters of NYCLASS in all five boroughs. He mentioned a few celebrities who are supporters as well, such as actor Alec Baldwin and musician Joan Jett. Allon spoke of the present growth NYCLASS is undergoing, such as through the coverage from The New York Times on the animal rights forum. Following this information Allon introduced the candidates present at the event who were running for mayor: Bill de Blasio, Bill Thompson, Sal Albanese, John Lui and John Catsimatidis. Invited candidates, but who did not attend included: Adolfo Carrion, Joe Lhota, George McDonald, Christine Quinn and Erick Salgado. The debate between the four democratic hopefuls and one republican was fast-paced, engaging, and opinions were fought to the conclusion.
Each candidate introduced themselves to the audience by explaining their personal philosophy on animal rights protection. A majority of the candidates gave a short touching relation to animals. Bill de Blasio spoke of how although he is not a vegetarian, he and his wife have raised two vegetarian children. Candidate John Castsimatidis spoke of his daughter’s beloved cockatiel bird having to be saved by the New York City Fire Department after flying into a tree. Sal Albanese mentioned his mother-in-law’s dog, Joey, and his family’s passion for Joey. All five of the candidates had made a personal connection with the audience through the relation of their own life and experience with animals. The debate began to speak volumes of each candidate’s goals for New York City’s animal protection rights concerns. As Bill Thompson had said, “What type of society we are is determined by how we treat our animals.”
The candidates answered questions on horse-drawn carriages, animal shelter reform, and other humane legislation. The first question of the evening was regarding whether or not New York City should be mandated to install fire sprinklers in all animal shelters. All of the candidates said yes to this legislation. Sal Albanese had said, “It defuses common sense that this is not already a law. We want to protect the people and the animals.” The following question was regarding whether or not anyone over the age of 62 years-old living in an apartment building with a pet should be able to stay without being evicted, if their apartment does not allow animals. Most of the candidates were able to agree fairly easily that allowing senior citizens the right to have a pet is beneficial and important. However, the third question regarding puppy mills resulted in some of the most complex answers of the evening.
Tom Allon explained that 25 cities in the United States require pet stores to sell strictly animals from pet shelters and rescues. After asking each candidate whether or not they would support that legislation and not have pets being bought from fancy pet boutiques, the responses varied. Candidates Bill Thompson and Bill de Blasio were undecided. Both agreed that not all pet stores get their puppies through puppy mills. Therefore, they feel as though not all of them should be closed. Thompson and Blasio said they would like to study the issue more in depth before deciding whether or not to agree with the legislation. In response, Sal Albanese had said, “I don’t think we need to study it. It is present in numerous cities and already very wide spread.” Opposing Albanese, John Catsimatidis stated that he does not want to see all pet shops in New York City be shut down and only have shops with shelter animals. He believes a “system” should be set up. His system would provide 20 percent to store owners for providing a specific amount of space within the store for sheltered animals. Also, he believes free animal food should be provided to customers for 90 days if they adopt a shelter animal rather than a pure bred animal that may be costly.
Regarding the question on horse-drawn carriages, candidates had varied opinions again. John Lui was not bashful about admitting that in the past he has voted to continue horse-carriages. However, Lui stressed the fact that he only voted for this due to stricter working conditions that would benefit the horses. He had mentioned some of these benefits such as hours of labors closely monitored and improved harnesses used on the horses. Although Lui voted in the past to continue horse-drawn carriages he mentioned that he would be open to trying one or several new vintage pilot cars as a replacement. Candidate John Catsimatidis mentioned that he wants to have horse-drawn carriages only in Central Park. Also, he mentioned his concern for the health of the horses; he said they must not be too old to work. Catsimatidis believes eliminating horse-drawn carriages from New York City would diminish a piece of New York City’s ambiance. A great deal of time was spent on the issue on horse-drawn carriages.
At the end of the debate audience members were allowed to ask the candidates questions. One Twitter question was answered, and this was a question regarding how each candidate would require the education of humane care for animals through the New York City Department of Education. Overall, the 90-minute debate allowed the community to get to know the running candidates. The forum was a great success for it’s first year. Animal supporters look forward to more to come in the future, and learn more on how to support NYCLASS by clicking here.