The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance
Horse Carriage Committee Meeting August 2
Carriage Horse ordinance in final leg
Is it sufficiently stringent?Warwick Jones
The City of Charleston has an ordinance that covers horse carriages. But it has none that covers carriage horses. The need for an ordinance was recognized some 13 years ago, and a committee was appointed by the City to help shape it. It has been slow progress, but after two years of deliberations, the Committee most recently appointed is close to completing its task. The final draft could be presented to Council within two months or so. It essentially will regulate the working and living conditions of the horses.
The Committee met yesterday to work through the draft ordinance with a representative of the City's legal department. The effort was a "tidying-up" exercise. Some members of the public were also present, as they have been at previous meetings. They speak frequently and loudly about their concerns. From the questions and statements, these concerns still linger. The Ordinance does not go far enough in ensuring the welfare of the horses, they say
Temperature threshold too high!
Amongst the most important issues is working in the summer months. At what ambient temperature should the horses be taken off the road? As it stands presently, they are taken off when the temperature reaches 98°. Yesterday's high was 95°, and only the hearty ventured outside. But for the horses - tough! They don't get a break until the temperature is 3° higher. Another measure is to be introduced called the Temperature Humidity Index (THI). It is simply the addition of temperature and relative humidity. If the temperature is 85° and relative humidity 80%, the Index is 165. The threshold for pulling horses off the road is 180.
The Committee agreed that the ambient temperature would be measured at the property owned by Palmetto Carriage Co. This temperature reading would be constantly monitored. Members of the public could view a reading of the temperature downtown - at Cannon Park - by accessing www.weatherunderground.com. Mr. Tom Doyle, a principal of The Palmetto Carriage Company is a member of the Committee. We also note that the thermometer used by the horse carriage companies is in the shade of a tree and some 15' above the ground. It seems correctly placed to measure the ambient temperature.
The temperature humidity index is important
The carriage operators seem to not like the THI and one asked as to what happened if it were raining. If the relative humidity were then 100% and the temperature only 80°, the index would be 180. From his comment, the carriage operator thought that the horses could easily and humanely work in the 80° temperature, even if the relative humidity were 100%. Which shows that it is fortunate that the Committee has only carriage company owner on it.
The THI is important for it is an indicator as to how difficult it is for a horse to sweat and thereby cool itself. "When the temperature and humidity together total 180, the cooling mechanism is almost completely ineffectual and exercise, whether strenuous or aerobic can be maintained for only relatively short periods before the core temperatures and especially muscle temperature rise to dangerous levels of 105°". (#See reference below) Our limited reading of the equine medicine literature suggests that an index much lower than 180 might be more appropriate as a threshold.
Temperature on road surface much higher than that at barn
We also think that the members of the public have a point - the 98° temperature limit is far too high. The temperature under the tree at the barn may well be 98° but it will be a lot higher at "nose-height" along the asphalt road surface over which the horses travel. Most likely the temperature would be well above 100°. Theoretically at least, the ordinance as proposed would allow a horse to work 2 consecutive hours with a full load and with only a 15 minute break, up to temperatures of 98°.
Limits for temperature of horses
The Committee spent a lot of time trying to ensure that horses were not stressed even at temperatures less than the 98° threshold. They determined that when the ambient temperature exceeded 90°, the rectal temperature of each horse was to be taken after each trip was completed. If the rectal temperature exceeded 103°, the horse was to be immediately removed from service. It could return to service when its rectal temperature fell to 101.5°. However if the initial reading were above 104°, the horse had to be taken out of service for the rest of the day. If the rectal temperature exceeded 105°, a vet was to be called immediately. He was also to be called if the rectal temperature of the horse did not fall to less than 101.5° within 2 hours.
Need for more action on stall sizes
No member of the public present disagreed with taking the horses' temperature. But there was concern about stall sizes. The Committee Chairman noted that existing stalls vary in size and the smallest had a width of only 5 ft 7 inches. The new ordinance would require new stalls to be built with a minimum size of 8' x 8'. There was no requirement for carriage companies to enlarge their small stalls. We took exception to this. If the 5ft 7 inches was too small and inhumane, why should the small stalls be allowed at all? Why didn't the new ordinance impose an obligation on the carriage companies to increase the size of stalls? Indeed, requiring new construction to have a minimum size is disingenuous. It seems very unlikely that the City would allow the carriage trade to expand so new construction seems moot.
The Chairman and other members responded by saying that there was considerable controversy as to what was the appropriate minimum size of a stall. By implication, the 5'7" stall, was not necessarily too small, or inhumane. We ask if this is the case, then why did the Committee set the 8'by 8 as a minimum size? If it really believes a smaller size was humane, why didn't it set the minimum at a lower level?
Tied, straight or tethered?
There was considerable discussion about the nature of the stalls. Whether horses should be tethered, or loose, and what was safe for the horse? We confess to an inability to follow the discussion and to assess the merits of what was proposed. We also are not sure what was finally decided.
Action on load limits deferred
To the concern of some of the members of public, the Committee did not discuss the loads that the horses had to pull. Presently, the maximum carriage load is 17 persons - 16 passengers and a driver. In the opinion of some, this is too high particularly as so many people today are overweight. The Committee decided to defer discussion on this issue but recognized that some limit needed to be imposed. But deciding a limit was not so clear-cut. Some carriages are built of aluminum, and weigh much less than those of the usual wood construction. The ability of an animal to pull was also a function of its size and this should be taken into consideration. And finally, there was no agreement as to what is the appropriate number of people. The limits varied from city to city but from our investigation, no City allows a load of 17 persons.
The load issue will be discussed at the next meeting and the carriage companies, concerned about probable lost revenue, will argue strongly for the retention of the present limits. Some members of the public will argue for lower limits, and draw extensively from ordinances in other cities, which regulate horse drawn carriages.
Should there be "back to back" tours for the cruise-ship passengers?
Members of the public will probably have something to say about rest periods as well. Presently horses must be rested for at least 15 minutes between carriage tours and given water. However, there is an exception when the carriage companies are servicing the cruise ships that pull in at the downtown wharf. The companies are allowed to have "back to back" tours when servicing these tourists. This means that a horse can make two consecutive tours with only a 15-minute rest between, and without returning to the barn. It also means the horse is not given water and its temperature is not taken. In cool weather, the omissions may be low risk. But in the height of summer? We don't think so!
Uncertainty about rest periods
The Committee seemed uncertain about some aspects of rest periods, not only between the hour-long tours, but also within the working year. We are not sure what the proposed ordinance will state but we expect there will be provision for a day off during each working week and a stipulation relating to a longer break on pasture each month. There was discussion on these items but there seemed some differences between Committee members as to what was necessary, and to definitions. Certainly, interested members of the public will scrutinize this provision in its final shape.
#Exercise Physiology and Diseases of Exertion. M. Smith and M. Cohen. Equine Medicine and Surgery Volume 1, 1982