Here are the three main issues of concern that we have brought forward to the City of Victoria in the interests of the horses used in the horse carriage industry.

  1. There is documented evidence of ongoing animal cruelty, which has been reported to the BCSPCA.
  2. There are substantial safety concerns related to the horse carriages from collisions with vehicles to hospitalization of tourists and citizens of the City.
  3. At its foundation, this is animal exploitation and is forcing animals to perform for profit. The City of Victoria specifically has a bylaw banning such animal performances and especially in the context where inhumane treatment of animals is taking place.

These are the current issues that we have documented and brought to councils attention.  We attempt to maintain up to date material on our website, but the best way to be sure you have the most up to date information is to contact us directly.

The BCSPCA recently responded to our request for a position statement on the horse-drawn carriages (see here) with this background statement related to the horse carriages under their current position statement on animals used in recreation, sport, and entertainment.

This amendment to their position statement now states the following in relation to horse carriages:

The BC SPCA is opposed to the infliction of pain or suffering upon, or the killing of any animal, for the purpose of recreation, sport, or entertainment. The use of animals for recreation, sport, or entertainment is only acceptable if: 1) the Five Freedoms are ensured for all animals involved, including breeding animals and animals that have been retired from the activity; 2) humane training methods are used; 3) risk of injury is low; 4) their portrayal is not demeaning toward the individual animal or the species.

BACKGROUND Animals are used for recreation, sport and entertainment at a range of venues (e.g., zoos, aquariums, rodeos, circuses, film and television sets) for a variety of activities (e.g., shows, demonstrations, rides, races, competitions, site-seeing tours). Whenever animals are on display or made to perform, they face risks to their physical and psychological well-being. Such risks concern the ways in which they are bred, raised, housed, trained and transported, as well as the activities themselves. For instance:

When animals such as horses are used for site-seeing tours, they face – among other challenges – considerable heat stress. Carriage rides are typically purchased by tourists, and tourists tend to travel during the summer months when temperatures are high. Horses pulling heavy loads on hot pavement are at risk of overheating, which may be exacerbated by high humidity, as well as infrequent watering, poor access to electrolytes, obesity, poor conditioning or illness.

You can find their entire statement here.


 

Background

The horse-drawn carriages of Victoria B.C. have a long and sordid history in the city.

While the idea of horse-drawn carriages are often considered to be romantic and in-line with the motif of the city of Victoria itself, these concepts are used to undermine the serious animal welfare and rights issues presented by their operation. There is nothing romantic for the horses working in the city streets breathing in exhaust fumes and being stuck in the middle of loud and dangerous traffic. Similarly, the Victoria of old with its dirt and cobblestone roads that were once common, and the use of horses as a primary mode of transportation is outmoded. Victoria B.C. is considered by many to be one of the most desirable and beautiful cities in the world, and it does not need horse-drawn carriages to maintain this status. In fact, with major cities such as Toronto, Paris, Beijing, London, and more having by-laws removing horse-drawn carriages from busy areas of their cities , allowing them to continue to operate is a scar on the city’s reputation.

Why has this inhumane and antiquated practice been allowed to continue in Victoria B.C.? Because, so far the city and the carriage business’ have been able to hide behind special guidelines for care established with the BC SPCA.

While this may seem reasonable, it is also troubling because the BC SPCA has not directly addressed the horse-drawn carriages with a specific position statement. (This has been somewhat addressed by the above background statement you can at the top of this page.) While guidelines for how the horses should be treated including feeding, stabling, and handling exist, it does not address the issue that these horses must still operate in distress and discomfort in the city streets which are a stressful environment for them.

This specifically undermines at least two of the

BC SPCA’s own five freedoms which are:

 

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

Freedom number one may be the most difficult to argue because the horses cannot tell us exactly when they are thirsty or hungry and must labor until they are fed or watered; however, it is likely that they must at times work without being free from thirst or hunger.

2. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease

Freedom two states they must be free from pain, injury and disease.   While a horse that is lame would unlikely be put to work, a horse that is only moderately injured may be forced to work regardless, check-ups are not required regularly enough under the BC SPCA guidelines for anyone to be sure.  Furthermore, if emotional pain be included in the concept of ‘pain’ then the act of pulling a cart full of people in an unnatural environment and being unable to associate with other horses in a natural way for long hours would appear to fulfill this concept.

3. Freedom from distress

Freedom number three freedom from distress appears to be the most obvious cause for concern.  With accidents involving the horse carriages happening year after year, there is no reason to doubt that these creatures are in distress by being surrounded by loud traffic and other loud noises such as landscaping machinery on the routes they travel.  A horse can be spooked no matter how well it has been trained and in a stressful envrionent like the city it is more prone to reaction than anywhere else.

4. Freedom from discomfort

Freedom from discomfort also appears to be undermined by the condition that the horses must operate under.  Besides having to pull a heavy load, they are also harnessed into that load with no way of choosing their own path.  They must also work as long as the driver feels they are capable, not being able to stop of their own accord because of any issues they may have related to discomfort. Furthermore, although their hooves are shoed, horses are not meant to walk on hard pavement for long hours. Thus, this is very bad for their bodies over the time they will work in the industry.

5. Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being

The final freedom as mentioned by the BC SPCA, is that the horses should be able to express behaviours that promote well-being. However, horses are not city workers and they are not meant to work nine to five and then have dinner, and spend some recreation time doing what they want before bed.  Pulling carriages is not a behaviour that promotes well being.  In fact, it endangers the lives of the horses, drivers, and pedestrians who must navigate this slow moving and awkward form of transportation on often congested and busy city streets.

We Believe In A Sixth Freedom

6.  Freedom from compromising the safety and integrity of society

a) An animal must unduly bear the consequences of the situation it is placed in by those who appoint themselves the animal’s caretaker should the animal compromise the safety or integrity of society at no fault of its own.

b) Horses in the horse-drawn carriage industry are put in the unenviable position of being forced to work in unsafe and uncontrollable conditions where if they are spooked, hit by traffic, or cause injury to a citizen, they have compromised the safety of society through no fault of their own.  This differs significantly even from uneviable rodeo situations where the horses used are only handled by the trained professionals in a closed area.

c) We have seen numerous examples of the horse-carriages drivers compromising the safety of citizens by a simple lack of awareness of people’s behaviour while on the carriages and trolleys.  This is because the drivers cannot effectively divide their attention between the horse that needs constant direction and the people who need constant attention and redirection of their own behaviour.  It is because of the nature of the horse carriages themselves and the demand of the driver’s attention to both the horse and their surroundings that they cannot manage the safety of the passengers as well. Furthermore, the public treats the carriages as if they are a controlled mechanical vehicle not an animal pulled vehicle.  They miscalculate the danger and take unnecessary risks because of this misconception.  Thus, we must acknowledge that we are compromising the safety of society by allowing horse-carriages on city streets.

Sign the Petition

Sign and help us end this inhumane industry.

1,509 signatures

City of Victoria: Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

CITY OF VICTORIA: BAN THE HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGES.
City of Victoria Mayor and Council, we call on you to take action for the safety, health, and integrity of the horses used in the horse-drawn carriage industry in Victoria B.C., and for the visitors and citizens who live here.

WHEREAS past efforts to regulate the horse-drawn carriage industry have not stopped collisions in the streets or inhumane treatment of the horses used in this industry.

AND WHEREAS in the last 20 years, Victoria has experienced over 20 collisions and safety concerns involving the horse-drawn carriages which threaten the lives and safety of the horses, visitors, and residents in our city.

AND WHEREAS there is documented evidence of improper maintenance of the carriage equipment placing horses, drivers, and pedestrians at risk.

AND WHEREAS there is documented evidence of careless and reckless operation of the horse carriages by those driving them in the streets.

AND WHEREAS there is evidence the City of Victoria is losing $20,000 in annual revenue from the current rental agreement established between the City and the horse carriage companies.

AND WHEREAS recent documentation of Victoria horse carriage horses feet indicate improper and inadequate care which has been condemned by certified farriers, and which has led to a cruelty complaint being filed with the BC SPCA.

AND WHEREAS research indicates that the “bit” used to communicate with the horses in the Victoria horse carriage industry causes them pain and discomfort which can lead to chronic physiological and psychological health issues.

AND WHEREAS Victoria Horse Alliance has compiled a report which outlines how a “phasing out” to a ban could be naturally accomplished by Dec 31st, 2017 based on current rental agreements between the City of Victoria and carriage operators.

THEREFORE WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, urge the City of Victoria’s Mayor and Council to act in the interests of the horses used in the horse carriage industry, as well as the interests of citizens and visitors of the City by passing a resolution for a phasing out of the horse carriage industry, leading to a natural ban to be effective Dec 31st, 2017.

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