Two days after Jerry the carriage horse collapsed on a Salt Lake City street, city leaders are considering whether it would be appropriate to change a city ordinance pertaining to carriage tours downtown.
City councilman Charlie Luke said he asked council staff to gather more details about Saturday’s incident on South Temple and State Street by speaking with Jerry’s owners, witnesses and the veterinarian treating the 13-year-old carriage horse, who suffered from a bout of colic, which caused his sudden collapse.
Jerry, meanwhile, continued to recover Monday, officials with Carriage for Hire said.
A lively discussion involving the merits of carriage tours was underway Monday on Luke’s Facebook page.
“I think anytime there’s an unfortunate incident like this, it does get everyone’s attention and it creates a dialogue that I think is good,” Luke said, cautioning that he won’t be rushing into any possible changes to city ordinances and nothing has been added to the city council agenda.
“I think it’s important we find out specifically what took place,” he said. “I want to make sure that we look at every angle first. [Changing an ordinance] is not something I take lightly.”
More than 1,400 people from across the world Monday had signed an online petition started by Donna Pemmitt, who does not live in Utah, seeking to put an end to the “cruel industry.”
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office received “a number” of concerned inquiries about the incident from both residents and non-locals, said city spokesman Art Raymond.
He said all resident concerns are taken seriously, but said it would be “imprudent” to act on limited information, so the city is waiting for the conclusion of an investigation by animal services.
“This incident creates an opportunity for us to have a discussion about whether this is an appropriate business,” Raymond said.
Jerry was completing a tour near South Temple and State Street on Saturday afternoon when he suddenly kicked his stomach. When the driver stopped to check on him, he lay down and refused to get up.
The incident initially attracted close to 60 well-wishers, including Salt Lake City resident Ronald Schulthies, all who wanted to do everything they could to help the downed horse get to more comfortable surroundings.
“[He] just didn’t want to move,” Schulthies said. “His eyes were open and when we’d move him, he’d neigh and whinny.”
Schulthies said he brought several buckets of water to pour on the 1,800-pound horse’s neck while veterinarians, carriage company employees and Good Samaritans worked with him.
He said Jerry was very calm about the whole thing. At times he’d seem ready to get up, but would then fall back down.
“It was distressing because lots of people there wanted to do something, but didn’t know what to do,” he said. “Obviously, the carriage company didn’t have any plan for that type of thing.”
But he said there were “no attempts to mistreat the horse.”
“I saw the exact opposite,” he said.
Schulthies said when rescuers realized that Jerry had inadvertently suffered a cut to his leg while they were trying to move him, rubber mats were produced to cushion the horses’s movement into a nearby trailer.
And the horse was quickly medicated to help keep it comfortable, he said.
PETA officials and Pemmitt have alleged that temperatures contributed to Jerry’s plight. Temperatures officially reached 97 in Salt Lake City on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
“Jerry was being forced to pull a carriage in sweltering heat (the high was 98 today),” Pemmitt’s petition reads. “He had ropes tied around his legs so that he could be dragged into a trailer, and then at the stable, he was lifted into a barn — out of sight — with a fork lift. Awful, sad, and unnecessary. It’s time for Salt Lake City to do away with this cruel industry.”
Jerry’s owners have said they had no indication he had colic before he headed out for work and that they always carry water on the carriage for the horses.
South Mountain Equine veterinarian Lyle Barbour, who is not treating Jerry, said colic usually strikes suddenly in horses.
“[They’re usually] normal one minute and the next, down and thrashing,” he said.
He said most of time, nothing can be done to prevent colic, which is the No. 1 cause of death in horses.
He said horses have a higher propensity to colic in the heat because of dehydration and if they have a cardiovascular system that might not be up to par, but there’s no way to tell for sure if that was a contributing factor unless a necropsy — an autopsy for animals— is performed.
He pointed out that some horses do long endurance rides in high heat and never experience similar problems.
“Just to make the generalization that heat causes more colic, I think that’s unfair,” he said. “Just because it was hot doesn’t mean temperature caused it. Just because the animal was unable to rise doesn’t mean he was fatigued.”
He said a lot of the time there’s no rhyme or reason to why a horse suffers from colic. He said making sure a horse isn’t being neglected and has access to water are two ways to help prevent colic.
— Michael McFall contributed to this story