The BC SPCA is recommending horse-drawn carriages be banned from downtown Victoria streets after an incident last month where two horses fell to the ground.
In a letter to council, which will be discussed at a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, the organization references a May 4 incident, which involved two trolley horses owned by Victoria Carriage tours.
According to the BC SPCA, Victoria Carriage Tours reported that the bus pulled up directly behind the horse-drawn trolley and as the trolley prepared to advance, it rolled back and hit the front of the bus. The BC SPCA said it was told the collision caused the harness to slacked, knocking the horses off-balance. One animal fell and pulled another animal down with them.
Victoria Carriage Tours’ owner Katarina Sjoblom said after the incident that the horses falling was a result of the driver releasing the break to allow the horses to carry on and that a tour bus was sitting behind the carriage too closely.
A video of the incident later circulated on social media after it was posted by the animal rights group, Victoria Horse Alliance, and led to criticism.
Craig Daniell, CEO of the BC SPCA, states in the letter that the two trolley horses were in significant distress for more than five minutes.
“Emergent video of the event is alarming and demonstrates handlers were not adequately trained in emergency procedures, nor in control of a situation which posed a serious threat to public safety and the animals? welfare,” Daniell said in the letter.
Daniell also states in the letter that the operator failed to disclose the length of time it took the handlers to adequately assess the situation, remove the harnesses, and successfully help the horses to their feet.
“It is decidedly troubling that Victoria Carriage Tours chose to inappropriately downplay a serious incident which put the public at risk.”
The BC SPCA recommends Victoria council prohibit the operation of horse-drawn carriages and trolleys on Victoria’s streets. The organization also said if tours continue, they should only take place in a safer park environment.
“Permitting the continued operation of horse-drawn tours on busy streets places horses at risk of injury or death. In light of this most recent accident, it is imperative council mitigate the significant risks associated with horse-drawn tours by ending the practice on traffic-congested streets,” the letter reads.
The BC SPCA also recommends limiting horse-drawn vehicles to one-horse carriages.
“This would likely prohibit the use of trolleys in Victoria, restricting tour operations to carriages only. The introduction of this condition would reduce public safety concerns and decrease the risk of injury to a horse should another incident occur,” Daniell said in the letter.
The BC SPCA also wants the horse carriage industry to establish standard operating procedures and emergency management plans for urgent situations; create a report form for carriage operators to fill out after an incident, and that they require each operator to have an emergency kit for each vehicle, including an extra halter, four traffic cones and first aid kits for both people and horse.
Tally-Ho Carriage Tours responded to the letter by releasing a statement on Tuesday that said while the letter focused on recommendations to improve safety procedures for horse-drawn operations, the company is confused how safety recommendations suddenly jump to a statement that potentially puts the business at risk.
“In every aspect of our operation,s Tally-Ho follows strict procedures and precautions to maximize the safety of our horses, staff and the general public. We operate under the guidelines of a comprehensive, 70-page Policies and Procedures Manual, a copy of which was provided to Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe prior to the commencement of our 2018 season. This manual includes specific emergency procedures; instructions on documenting incidents; daily checks that safety kits are on each carriage; internal restrictions on operating areas that go beyond current regulations; proper handling of horses; and detailed horse and staff training programs that were developed with leading equine experts,” the statement reads.
“Tally-Ho is actively involved as a board member of the Carriage Operators of North America which oversees best practices in the industry. We are a progressive company that continually implements advancements in the carriage industry and sets high standards of ethics and care. Tally-Ho exceeds both current and proposed regulations. The industry?s safety record is outstanding at only a 0.00001% incident rate over the last 20 years. We look forward to continued collaborative dialogue with the City of Victoria regarding appropriate oversight of the industry.”
A motion to be discussed at the committee of the whole meeting asks for receipt of the correspondence and a request that city staff report back on any advice city council would need to receive to consider the BC SPCA’s recommendation.