It’s a cute novelty and a great tourist draw; horse-drawn carriages seem to be part of the downtown experience, but the recent event Saturday is bringing the practice into question.
Carl Arky, Director of Communications for the Humane Society of Utah told ABC 4 Utah, “We think it poses too much risk to the animals as well as the public.”
The horse, named Jerry, went down on a busy downtown street Saturday afternoon. His owners, Carriage for Hire, say he has colic a painful but not uncommon condition.
Annette Overson, Owner of Carriage for Hire told ABC 4 Utah, “Jerry has colic and when horses get it, it’s tough to look at. Jerry collapsed because of the pain. They called the vet and the vet gave Jerry pain injections to help.”
Jerry also needed the help of heavy machinery to get back on his feet. Video, shot by a PETA member, showed the horse being carried back into his stall with the use of a forklift.
Arky says seeing an animal down is disturbing and wants to see the use of carriage horses stopped. “It’s a quaint idea and we understand why people would want to use it from a touristy standpoint, but it’s a quaint idea whose time has come and gone,” said Arky. “These are horses that are bred to work and we understand that, they’re strong horses, but you know they’re out there in the heat on the asphalt. They’re breaking the fumes from the cars, buses and trucks going by all day long.”
Now one Salt Lake City councilman is looking into the practice. Council member Charlie Luke (Dist. 6) told ABC 4 Utah, “We’re also going to be looking at some of the best practices from around the country to see what other cities are doing and what if anything should be done.”
While no decision has been made on what steps if any the city will take, Luke is glad a discussion has started. “As tragic a circumstance as this is the benefit is we’re talking about it,” said Luke. “The benefit is we’re looking into how best to move forward to ensure the safety of not only the animals but the general public as well.”
There are some ordinances already in effect; like carriage horses can't work more than nine total hours in any 24 hour period, they have to have 15 minute break at the end of each two hour work period and they can't be worked more than five consecutive days.
What the counsel staff is taking a closer look at is the type of weather these horses can work in. Currently the ordinance reads they can't work when it feels like ten below or when the heat index is above 150 degrees. ABC 4 Chief Meteorologist Jim Kosek says a heat index of 150 degrees is extremely hot and questions anyone or any animal working in those kinds of temperatures.