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Salt Lake City mulls changing horse-carriage regulations

First Published Jan 07 2014 09:04 pm • Last Updated Jan 07 2014 10:19 pm

Salt Lake City’s new ordinance regulating horse-drawn carriages may be a pony of a different color.

Rather than simply tighten regulations in the wake of the Aug. 17 collapse of a horse on a downtown street, the City Council appears to be poised to allow horse-drawn carriages to operate only under contract with the municipality.

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That would give the city more muscle than it has under its present ordinance that regulates the equine-powered carriages through business licensing.

"A contract-form of regulation gives us a lot more flexibility," said Council Chairman Charlie Luke. "If they are out of compliance [with regulations], they have broken the contract."

Carriage for Hire, the only carriage company operating in Salt Lake City, has violated the present Salt Lake City ordinance on several occasions, according to Salt Lake County Animal Services, which contracts with the city on animal-related issues.

Most recently, the carriage company was found to be out of compliance for operating during the afternoon and evening rush hour. Salt Lake City issued a warning.

Luke noted that there is confusion between the city and county as to which is responsible for enforcing various parts of the ordinance. The council continues to wrestle with specifics of an ordinance overhaul that Luke proposed and one designed by the administration of Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker with the aid of Animal Services.

Rather than adopt either proposal Tuesday evening, the council determined to further analyze the administration’s proposal and merge some of its aspects with Luke’s plan. No date was set for the ongoing discussion.

Among a host of regulations, sticking points remain around the temperature range at which horses can work and whether a designated route should be implemented that would keep carriages off South Temple, but allow them along North Temple and Memory Grove.

The council seemed to be in agreement that carriage horses should be at least 3 years old, should work no more than eight hours a day with a 10-minute break each hour, and should not work more than five days a week.

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But City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall wondered aloud if the days of horse-drawn carriages downtown had come and gone. Downtown is vibrant and crowded with automobile traffic, unlike it was in the mid-1980s when city leaders hoped carriages would enliven the city.

"The reason we brought horse-drawn carriages into downtown is no longer there," she said.

Of 17 speakers at a public hearing Tuesday evening, 15 said a ban should be implemented. Two asked for compromise. A common thread was that it is cruel to the animals to work on hard pavement breathing exhaust fumes in sometimes bitter cold or sweltering heat.

Jeremy Beckham, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, had called for an outright ban of horse-drawn carriages after the horse’s death. In an interview Tuesday evening , he pointed to Carriage for Hire’s violations of the present city ordinance and said he is disappointed the operation’s license has not been revoked.

But, he added, the contract-form of regulation should be better at keeping carriage operators in compliance with regulations.

"It seems real hard for this business to be reined in," he said. "But the city is giving this a very hard look … and I respect that."


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