Salt Lake City Council discuss future of horse-drawn carriages

Posted at 9:20 PM, Jan 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-07 23:20:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dozens of Salt Lake City residents packed a public hearing on Tuesday night to weigh in on the city’s horse-drawn carriage businesses.

It's an issue the city council has been grappling with since a carriage horse collapsed in the middle of downtown in August and later died.

“Get them out of the city. It’s a blight, it’s a danger, and it’s cruel to the animals,” said one resident.

The horse, named Jerry, had colic, according to his owners at the business, Carriage for Hire.  Initially, the company told the public the animal was recovering from his fall, but it was later discovered he died not long after.

Following the incident, many residents called on city officials to ban the practice altogether. Five months later, the sentiment was the same from some.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” a Salt Lake City woman said, “The horses should not be in heavy traffic. It’s just that simple.”

Public frustration prompted city councilman Charlie Luke to recommend developing proposals to change the way the city regulates the businesses. Following a meeting in September, the council enlisted the help of Salt Lake County Animal Services, who they contract with to help regulate the carriage businesses, as well as the Mayor’s Office.

“There are a lot of people that want them banned outright,” Luke said. “There are a lot of people who feel that they’re fine. And so, my belief is if we are going to have them, we need to make sure they are as safe as possible for the riders, for the drivers, for the horses, for everybody involved.

During a work session on Tuesday afternoon, the council discussed a list of possible changes, which included the following:

1. Limiting the number of hours a horse may work in a day to eight, with a 10-minute break every hour.

2. Requiring carriage drivers to submit to background checks and licensing requirements.

3. Prohibiting operations if the ambient temperature reaches below 10 degrees to 104.

“Personally, I’m still concerned about the temperature area they’ve set. Those limits I think need to be adjusted,” Luke said.

City officials will revisit the issue at their next work session, at which point they’ll discuss further changes and additions.

“I think this ordinance that is being worked on is much better than the old one, for sure,” said Mike Reberg, Director of Animal Services for Salt Lake County.

Possible additions to the proposed changes could include creating a limited route through downtown for the carriage rides, and requiring the businesses to enter into contracts with the city.