Animal rights activists demand Salt Lake City Council ban horse carriages
Sixty people gathered Tuesday evening at 5 p.m. in front of City Hall to demand that Salt Lake City ban horse-drawn carriages.
The demonstration came 10 days after Jerry, a 13-year-old carriage horse, collapsed on State Street near South Temple as midday temperatures pushed into the high 90s. He later died.
News of Jerry's collapse led to a deluge of phone calls and emails to City Hall seeking the end to carriages downtown, according to representatives of the City Council and Mayor Ralph Becker.
Jerry apparently died Friday, two days after one of his owners, Annette Overson of Carriage for Hire, supplied news outlets with a photo of a healthy horse and a statement that Jerry was on the mend. She later conceded the photo was not of Jerry.
Overson and her husband, Blaine, have said their carriage horses are well cared for and are not abused or overworked. Carriage for Hire has about 15 horses and operates all carriage rides around downtown Salt Lake City.
"They lied," said protester Eric Taco, who carried a "RIP Jerry" placard. "I think what they force those horses to do is cruel. I don't want to see this happen to any more horses."
Another demonstrator, Christi Thon from Sandy, said animals "deserve care and respect."
"We don't need horse carriages in the 21st Century," she said. "The animals suffer when weather gets extreme and they die for no reason."
The demonstrators crowded into the council chambers for the body's regularly scheduled 7 p.m. meeting. Twenty eight people asked the council to ban horse-drawn carriages. Two people said the business should be allowed to continue, perhaps with stronger regulation.
Amy Meyer of Utah Animal Rights Coalition witnessed Jerry on the street shortly after he had collapsed. In an interview, she said he didn't appear to be suffering the symptoms of colic, as his owners claimed. "I would want to see his vet records," she said.
Jeremy Beckham, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said Jerry's death is not an isolated incident. There have been other accidents in the past and there will be more until the carriages are banned, he said.
Also Tuesday, Councilman Charlie Luke toured facilities of Carriage for Hire and said they appeared clean and the horses there seemed to be in good health. But, Luke added, "I'm no horse expert."
He said city staff is conducting two reviews to determine:
• Whether Carriage for Hire violated provisions of its permit as outlined by city ordinances.
• Whether Salt Lake City should ban carriage tours in the future.
Luke estimated it will take about two weeks for council members to receive staff reports on both issues. The city hopes to receive a full report from Carriage for Hire by Friday.
"We have a very emotional situation and the city wants to take the emotion out of its decision-making," Luke said. "For city government, we're moving as fast as we can. We know this may not seem fast enough."
Luke said Carriage for Hire has told the city that a veterinarian determined colic was the cause of Jerry's death and that the carcass has since been destroyed.
But, according to a statement released Tuesday by Salt Lake County, which contracts with Salt Lake City on matters of animal welfare, Animal Control officers never saw Jerry after he became ill.
Russ Wall, director of public works, said his officers visited Carriage for Hire and were told Jerry was being treated by a vet at another location and was not available for inspection.
Calls this week to Carriage for Hire from Animal Control were not returned, Wall said.