WATCH: The horse carriage operators are fighting back. Last week, Victoria city council voted to investigate what it would mean to phase out horse-drawn carriages with electronic carriages. Now the industry says it’s ready to sue the city. Luisa Alvarez reports.
Victoria’s horse-carriage tour industry say they’re ready to launch a lawsuit against the City of Victoria if council decides to ratify the motion to phase out their industry by 2023.
“We will take it as far as we need to, to protect our businesses, our staff and our horses,” said Donna Friedlander, Owner of Tally Ho Horse Carriage Tours.
Friedlander says it costs about $20,000 a year to maintain each horse, so the revenue they generate is a must.
“I’m not individually wealthy and I can’t afford to keep them all I’ve got twenty-one horses. So what happens if the industry closes? I don’t know,” said Friedland.
“I can’t control where they go in the future and the sad reality is that a lot of draft horses these days that don’t have a job end up at slaughterhouses.”
Coun. Ben Isitt brought the motion forward last week citing animal welfare concerns and increasing conflict with traffic, suggesting horse-drawn carriages be replaced by electronic carriages.
“Conditions environmentally, conditions in this built up city are only getting more congested on our roads it is time to look at a regulatory change,” Isitt said during a committee of the whole meeting May 16th.
But Friedlander says it’s all come as a shock since last year council approved a five-year lease renewal on their stand rentals which is the longest lease renewal they have ever had. And based on that knowledge both companies have gone forward with spending money on improvements.
“We’ve got significant investments that are long term going on based on the city telling us everything was fine and now to have one councillor come forward and say he doesn’t think it is it’s very difficult to run a business like that,” said Friedlander.
Tally Ho Horse Carriage Tours is investing in a new barn for its animals, while Victoria Carriage Tours purchased new horses.
And now they’re lawyering up and seeking millions in damages if the motion is ratified later this fall as well as damage they say, has already been done.
“Defamatory statements have consequences,” said Friedlander. “We believe the motion being put forward by Councillor Isitt and shown preliminary support by Councillors Collins, Potts, Loveday, and Dubow has already materially and permanently damaged the reputation and long-term value of our businesses.”
And the carriage companies say the issue is already having an effect on their business.
“We’ve seen a recent resurgence of verbally abusive attacks on our drivers by animal activists, which seem to have been triggered by the news of Councillor Isitt’s motion. These attacks are again putting drivers, horses, visitors, and the public at serious risk,” said Friedlander.
Victoria Carriage Tours and Tally-Ho Carriage Tours hope to discuss their latest proposals to enhance operational and public safety with council. The industry and their supporters are planning a rally outside City Hall on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.