It was a May 2018 incident involving Victoria’s horse-drawn carriages that seemed to revive the debate over the controversial practice and has ultimately brought the issue before Victoria City Council.
The traffic incident, in which a horse carriage was bumped by a bus, led to two trolley horses slipping and falling onto the street. Video of the incident, shared by Victoria Horse Alliance, showed the animals struggling to get up for over five minutes, with members of the public attempting to intervene and inadvertently putting themselves at risk of injury. Eventually, the horses’ harnesses were removed and they were able to regain their footing.
The Ogden Point incident made media headlines and led to questions about whether horse-drawn carriages and trolleys should continue to be permitted in increasingly busy and traffic-congested urban environments.
Earlier this year, the debate made its way to Victoria City Council, as Councillor Ben Isitt proposed banning horse carriages by 2023. Council opted to seek further input from the BC SPCA before deciding on any changes to the practice.
As an organization that has advocated for ending the operation of horse-drawn carriages in Vancouver, in particular in Stanley Park and more recently at holiday events in the city, Vancouver Humane has also submitted a letter to Victoria City Council for their consideration. You can read our full letter here.
Vancouver Humane’s primary concerns are for the welfare of the horses, who are subjected to pulling carriages and trollies in urban environments that pose serious safety risks to both the animals and the public. The regular exposure to traffic, noise and pollution; the long hours of standing and walking on hard surfaces; and the hard labour under sometimes extreme weather conditions are not consistent with a horse guardian’s responsibility to provide high-quality, long-term care for horses.
While some suggest increased regulation as a solution, the urban conditions create inherent welfare and public safety issues which cannot be adequately addressed through regulation of the industry.
Vancouver Humane is strongly encouraging Victoria City Council to follow Montreal’s progressive lead in phasing out and banning horse carriages, as well as supporting the industry and workers in transitioning to alternative employment, such as guided bicycle, pedicab or walking tours.