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Humane Society calls for end to carriage horses downtown

Published August 21, 2013 7:38 am

No violations found after a carriage horse's collapse, but animal advocates try to get them off SLC streets.
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In the wake of Jerry's collapse, the Humane Society of Utah is, once again, calling for an end to carriage-horse use on Salt Lake City streets.

A sudden bout of colic caused the 13-year-old horse to collapse at South Temple and State Street on Saturday afternoon.

Salt Lake County Animal Services spokesman Don Porter said Tuesday that officers found no violations of city ordinance or policy after investigating the incident and visiting Jerry and his owners. And an official with Carriage for Hire said Monday that Jerry was recovering.

But the Humane Society would rather the horse and his equine brethren not return to work.

"I can understand why people like it. It's a quaint idea, but maybe an idea that's time has passed," said Carl Arky, spokesman for the Humane Society. "Even if it's just one incident, how many do we need?"

The Humane Society has denounced carriage-horse practices a couple of times before. But Arky, who has been with the organization for about four years, said the specific dates predate him.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Humane Society claimed that horses working in the city risk overheating on hot asphalt, endure loud noises, breathe exhaust fumes and, in winter, are forced to labor in frigid, inclement weather for several hours a day. The practice puts both horses and people at risk, according to the release.

"Over the years, numerous incidents like this across the United States have resulted in the death of horses, people sustaining serious injuries and major property damage," according to the Humane Society.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has compiled a list of almost 200 carriage-horse accidents in the United States, from 1985 to February of this year. Salt Lake City appears on the list three times.

In 2009, a carriage driver and a bicycle cop suffered minor injuries when a horse became startled and took off. The driver was dragged for a short distance and the officer, who tried to intervene, fell when his bike tangled with the carriage. The carriage and a car were both totaled.

In 1992, a car struck a carriage horse from behind, throwing the horse to the ground along with four passengers. The panicked horse bolted and was hit by another car, according to the list.

The third incident occurred at This Is The Place Heritage Park, far removed from the city streets, on July 4, 1999. Nine people were hospitalized after a horse pulling a covered wagon ran amok.

"I don't think we're comfortable seeing [carriage horses] anywhere," though when it comes to places like Heritage Park, the society would want to approach extending its disapproval on a case-by-case basis, Arky said.

The PETA list also includes a 1999 incident in Logan, in which the driver of a horse-drawn carriage went to the hospital after the carriage went off the road and tipped.

The Humane Society is not alone in its denouncements. An online petitioner, Donna Pemmitt, who lives outside of Utah, is also calling for an end to the practice. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 3,800 people from around the world had signed Pemmitt's petition seeking to end the "cruel industry."

PETA officials and Pemmitt have alleged that high temperatures contributed to Jerry's plight. It reached 97 degrees that day, according to the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Amy Meyer, of Salt Lake City, has also started a petition at Change.org, one that had gathered more than 1,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

"State Street is not an appropriate environment for a horse. Horses deserve a quieter, more rural environment," Meyer wrote on the website. "… Putting horses in a densely populated, noisy, and polluted environment is a recipe for accident and injury."

City Councilman Charlie Luke said Monday he had asked council staff to gather more details about Jerry's collapse.

Although the issue was not on the Salt Lake City Council agenda Tuesday evening, nine residents asked the body to end the use of horse-drawn carriages in the capital city.

They cited the welfare of the horses as well as public safety hazards caused by the slow-moving carriages plying the busy streets downtown.

Kara Sally said she witnessed the horse named Jerry collapse on the street Saturday along with her five-year-old daughter.

"This is most disturbing thing I've ever seen," she said. "Now I have a five-year-old daughter asking what happened to the horse."

Connie Curnoir told the council the practice must end "for the safety of the horses, the safety of the public and the safety of our visitors."

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. Eighty percent of their horses are rescues, and they are like family, an official said Monday.

South Mountain Equine veterinarian Lyle Barbour, who is not treating Jerry, said colic usually strikes suddenly in horses. He said most of time, nothing can be done to prevent colic, which is the No. 1 cause of death in horses.

Christopher Smart contributed to this story.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

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