On Thursday Victoria city council will look at changing its animal welfare bylaw to include things like limits on how many pets you can own and banning the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores. It’s also looking at regulating one of the city’s most iconic and controversial attractions ? horse-drawn carriages.

They’re considering adding regulations that require each horse from each company to wear an identifying tag, such as a number, so that when public complaints are made the SPCA can easily determine which horse is in question.

“So if they think a horse appears to be sore or unwell they can actually say its horse number and we’ll have copies of those vet records and history on those horses so we can quickly address any concerns,” said Victoria SPCA senior animal protection officer Erika Paul.

But Councillor Ben Isitt feels the proposed bylaw changes don’t go far enough and voiced his concerns at a meeting last week.

“I think council needs to turn its mind to the question of when we begin to phase out this industry,” Isitt told council. “If we’re serious about animal welfare these animals need to be in rural areas, on farms, not working in dense urban environments,” he added.

Isitt also raised concerns about possible environmental impacts from the horses.

“My understand is there is no filtering or capturing of the urine and it is flowing directly into the Inner Harbour, that seems to be a violation of the storm sewer bylaw,” he said.

But despite Isitt’s objections to the industry, council is not currently considering a ban and will only be voting on the bylaw change at Thursday’s council meeting.

“Maybe in the future, there will be no horse-drawn carriages in the city but as long as there is my desire is to make sure the horses are treated humanely and that the passengers are safe,” said Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe who proposed the bylaw changes.

Carriage tour operators say they welcome regulations requiring them to put identifying numbers on each horse but say Victoria leads the North American industry for standards of care and insist they’re not going anywhere.

April Lawrence