SLC Council to take reins on horse-drawn carriages
The Salt Lake City Council will again take up the topic of horse-drawn carriages Tuesday and whether they should be banned or restricted downtown after Jerry the horse collapsed on a city street last month and later died.
The horse succumbed to colic, according to his owners, Blaine and Annette Overson, who operate Carriage for Hire with 17 horses.
At its regularly scheduled afternoon work session, the council will review a report from its staff that looked at how 19 other cities that allow horse-drawn carriages regulate them. The council, however, is not scheduled to take action Tuesday.
Jerry's collapse, captured on video on the afternoon of Aug. 17 as temperatures climbed toward 100, drew public outcry and the condemnation of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. In addition, the Humane Society of Utah called for an end to horse-drawn carriages downtown.
Compounding the issue was a statement several days after the incident by Annette Overson that Jerry was on the mend, accompanied by a photo of a healthy horse. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) challenged the photograph, alleging it was not Jerry. Annette Overson later conceded the photo was a ruse and acknowledged Jerry's demise.
The Oversons did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.
On a motion from City Councilman Charlie Luke last month, the council directed its staff to find out how other cities deal with horse-drawn carriages. The report lists "best practices" of those cities that allow carriages. Those items include weight-pulling limits, maximum work hours, mandatory breaks, and weather conditions including temperature, among other things.
Half of cities reviewed put restrictions on operating during inclement weather, while Salt Lake City has no such restrictions.
Three quarters of the cities reviewed placed a high temperature limit of 90 degrees. Presently, Salt Lake City's uses an index that would allow working horses to a temperature of 107 or higher, depending on humidity.
The report notes that the "Salt Lake City Police Department has no concerns regarding traffic and public safety."
But PETA spokesman Jeremy Beckham, who helped organize a vigil at City Hall for Jerry last month, said his organization is still calling for an outright ban.
"We don't think a dense environment like downtown Salt Lake City is a place for horses," he said, citing safety issues for equines as well as people.
Beckham applauded the City Council for its investigation and conceded that some of the best practices "might make the problem smaller."
But, he warned, "you can't change the nature of a horse or the urban landscape. ... There are inherent risks."