For over a century, horse-drawn carriages have trotted their way through Victoria.

But they may soon be a thing of the past.

“We would look at phasing out commercial horse-drawn carriage on Victoria city streets by 2023,” said Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt.

Isitt says he’s become increasingly worried about horse-drawn carriage conflicts with traffic, and the welfare of the animals.

In April of 2018, a horsedrawn carriage rocked back into a bus, which slackened the horses’ harnesses and knocked animals off balance. The video went viral and had animal welfare groups up in arms.

“This industry has shown itself to not be acting in good faith in the public interest and to be, unfortunately, putting horses in situations that compromise their safety and that of the public and it’s time for them to go,” said Jordan Reichert, an activist with Victoria’s Horse Alliance.

Directly following the incident, the BC SPCA recommended that city Council ban horse-drawn carriages. The next month, however, the organization re-clarified its response.

“We welcome a solutions-based policy approach that reviews existing practices, barriers and opportunities for horse carriage operation,” said the BC SPCA’s CEO Craig Daniell in a release on June of 2018.

But that’s something the industry says, hasn’t happened.

“We’ve been begging to be consulted over the last year,” said Donna Friedlander who owns Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, but today was speaking for Victoria’s horse-drawn carriage industry as a whole.

“We’ve presented quite a bit of facts, third party information to the city of Victoria. regarding the horses and carriages, and how the industry operates. It seems all that evidence is being ignored.”

And the ramifications of closing down their business, for hundreds of their employees could be huge.

“It puts people out of jobs, it puts our horses out of work,” said Friedlander.

“That is heart-wrenching for me.”

But Isitt says the proposed plan allows time for the industry time to evolve.

“This proposal to phase out the industry in four years allows time for employees to transition and allows the operators to make decisions about investments and hopefully to repurpose their fleet towards electric vehicles and other options that don’t require horses on our busy city streets.”

“When he says e-carriages, that’s a car,” said Friedlander.

The proposal will go ahead of full council for debate this Thursday.

Kori Sidaway