By Horse Journals Media
The BC SPCA has asked the City of Victoria to ban all horse-drawn carriages and trolleys on streets of the city. The letter written by BC SPCA CEO Craig Daniell and addressed to City of Victoria mayor Lisa Helps was sent to city council after a video surfaced of an incident on May 4, 2018, showing two trolley horses that fell after a bus pulled up behind the trolley, which was operated by Victoria Carriage Tours.
In the letter, Daniell stated that “two trolley horses were involved in a traffic accident, causing them to fall and be in significant distress for more than five minutes. Emergent video of the event is alarming and demonstrates handlers were not adequately trained in emergency procedures, nor in control of a situation which posed a serious threat to public safety and the animals’ welfare. This incident requires a strong response from Council.”
A horse waits patiently for passengers in downtown Victoria, BC. Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
The BC SPCA also recommended that horse-drawn carriages be limited to those that require one horse to operate; that standard operating procedures and emergency management plans be established for urgent situations; that a report form be required to be completed by any licensed operator following any incident occurring during working hours in the City of Victoria; and each operator be required to have an emergency kit for each vehicle containing an extra halter, four traffic cones, and first aid kits for people and horses.
The Victoria News website reports that “what is being downplayed is the initial cause of the situation, which was a bus driver pulling far too close to the trolley, to the point where the wagon’s tail-end electrical box caught on the front fender of the bus. Should an accident caused mostly by an external party be enough to essentially gut this vibrant industry, which has helped give our downtown its charm with tourists and many locals? We think not.”
Global News reports that Victoria Carriage Tours, which has operated in Victoria since 1978, issued a statement which said, “Both horses fell to the ground, where they remained calm and waited for their handlers to remove their harness. Once they were given the okay from their team, the horses easily stood and walked back to their staging area.”
Carriage horse tours are considered by many to be an important contributor to the tourism industry in the City of Victoria and other major cities across Canada. Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
CTV Vancouver Island reports that Victoria Carriage Tours stated that the horses were not injured, that their staff handled the situation expertly, and that the video does not show the whole story. “Our horses are trained to stay down once they realize they can’t get back up on their own,” head horse trainer Emily May said. The company stated that this is only the second time the horses have fallen during a tour in more than a decade. The CTV report also states that Victoria Carriage Tours has implemented a number of changes since the incident, including taking off the harness after a fall, and never travelling that particular route without flaggers. Regarding the BC SPCA’s recommendation of having one horse per vehicle, they said horses train in pairs which helps the animals build confidence and familiarity with the routes.
In a separate statement, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, a Victoria operator celebrating 115 years of service in the City of Victoria said, “We are confused how safety recommendations suddenly jump to a statement that potentially puts our business at risk.”
The iconic horse-drawn carriages are seen as important ambassadors in the community and are often the first point of contact for tourists. They offer a delightful, relaxing way to experience the history and beauty of Victoria while sharing the love of horses with people of all ages.
A recent website poll conducted by HorseJournals.com asked: Do carriage horses have a place in today’s major cities, or should they be banned? Eighty-four percent said carriage horses in major cities are a much-loved tradition and should stay.
The carriage tour industry in Victoria is receiving significant support both from the horse community and the public, as knowledgeable horse people see the video and comment on the fact that handlers reacted appropriately, and the horses remained calm and got up easily once the harnesses were removed.
City staff will examine the BC SPCA’s recommendations.
Victoria Times-Colonist is reporting that Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe said it behooves council to get more information from staff rather than just receiving the letter for information. “There’s a lot of different information in the letter from the B.C. SPCA and there may be different things that we need to consider,” she said. “I think if we send it to staff, staff will be able to look at the letter and bring back a full report. If we have additional questions once that report comes back we can ask them at that time.”
View the letter HERE:
Learn more about Victoria Carriage Tours.
Learn more about Tally-Ho Carriage Tours.
Main photo: Robin Duncan Photography
With files from Vicnews.com, CTVNews.ca, GlobalNews.ca, TimesColonist.com.