Thousands of people are petitioning in response to a Victoria city councillor’s proposal to phase out horse-drawn carriages.
The Victoria Horse Protection Alliance started its online petition three years ago, but in just a few days hundreds of supporters joined the cause, bringing the total to over 3,500 as of Wednesday morning.
The movement was originally a counter-petition to the Victoria Horse Alliance’s (VHA) call to ban horse-drawn carriages altogether. The VHA petition also started three years ago and a recent spike brings the total number of signatures to over 38,500.
The jump in protests comes after Coun. Ben Isitt put forward a motion which proposes to phase out all horse-drawn carriages by 2023.
On one side, the Victoria Horse Protection Alliance is asking for the continued protection of nearly 60 draft horses that work in the downtown core.
“Draft horses [are] doing a job that they have been bred to do for over 300 years,” the petition reads. “The majestic horses are much beloved icons of the city, with thousands of guests seeking a horse-drawn tour as one of their must-do activities, and many locals relishing in their beauty and the aesthetic they bring to the city’s inner harbour.”
The Victoria Horse Alliance, on the other hand, argues that having horses work is animal cruelty.
“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. Currently, there is virtually no regulation or public oversight of this industry,” the VHA petition reads.
A letter from the BC SPCA in May 2018 that asked for horse-drawn carriages to be removed from busy downtown streets emboldened the VHA’s stance.
“The BC SPCA recommendations are already a year old and there have been further incidents with the horse carriages since that time,” said Jordan Reichert, VHA founder in an emailed statement. “Four more years of this unsafe, inhumane, and unprofessional industry putting the public and horses’ safety at risk is irresponsible.”
The City’s two horse-carriage businesses, Tally-Ho and Victoria Carriage Tours sent a released statement in response to Isitt’s proposal.
“This motion has been made based upon Councillor Isitt’s own personal ideologies, and is not based upon facts or knowledge,” the statement reads. “Victoria’s horse-drawn industry sets the tone for worldwide standards of care, ethics and operational management.”
In July 2018 the BC SPCA sent a follow-up letter to city council to further emphasize the importance of a “solutions-based policy approach” with horse-industry workers. Tally-Ho and Victoria Carriage Tours say that they’ve been compliant with the BC SPCA and continue to try to work with the city to make the industry as safe as possible.
Isitt’s proposal will be up for discussion at a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, May 16.
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