Carriage horse trade in Montreal faces one-year hiatus

A carriage horse in Montreal. Photo: Montreal SPCA
A carriage horse in Montreal. Photo: Montreal SPCA

Horse-drawn carriages that ply the cobblestone streets of the Canadian city of Montreal face a one-year hiatus while local officials draft new guidelines.

The horses and carriages, known locally as caleche rides, are a common sight in the old part of the city, but Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre stepped in to impose the one-year ban on Wednesday.

Montreal officials would take the year to create new guidelines for the popular tourist drawcard, Coderre said.

The city’s carriage trade has faced criticism after a couple of publicized incidents, including a horse that slipped and fell, and a collision involving a vehicle.

Coderre said he was not satisfied with the way the industry was running. He suggested the best option was to restart from zero to ensure the trade was a source of pride and not irritation. Coderre said new rules would ensure optimal conditions for the horses.

The Montreal SPCA congratulated Coderre and his administration for taking what it described as a necessary first step by shedding an investigative light on this “troubled industry”.

The charity said it remained cautiously optimistic until a permanent solution was adopted that did not include the use of carriage horses in the city.

It said it had always been concerned about the welfare and safety of carriage horses in Montreal. “In fact, we strongly condemn the use of carriages horses in urban environments,” it said in a statement.

The horses, it said, could work long hours and were subject to potential collisions with traffic, loud noises that could cause the animals to spook, extreme temperatures, and years of walking on unnaturally hard surfaces which often caused lameness.

It said it would continue to encourage Montreal officials to permanently phase out the trade, which it branded unsafe and unnecessary.

“Horse-drawn carriages are not a charming way for tourists to discover old Montreal,” said the charity’s executive director, Nicholas Gilman, who suggested the trade was attracting negative reviews of the city.

He said a phase-out plan would give the city of Montreal a chance to work with the owners of horses and the Montreal SPCA, horse rescues and sanctuaries to place all the horses into loving and experienced retirement homes.

The SPCA already had a network of foster homes and horse rescues and would be more than willing to help with proper placement of the carriage horses.

It noted that many cities, including London, Paris, Beijing, and Toronto, had already permanently banned horse-drawn carriages.

The charity urged Coderre’s administration to follow suit.

It is understood there are 24 permits issued allowing carriage drivers to take tours within the city. Those who paid for 2016 permits, which cost $C550, would be reimbursed.

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