The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance

The Watch


Individual Articles

An Ordinance to protect carriage horses

Plodding to completion with an empty load
Patricia Jones

I enjoyed watching the carriage rides because I love horses but watching the carriage rides throughout the days put a pit in my stomach. I started to feel bad for the horses because it was only one horse per carriage. I am an animal lover. The poor horses were pulling well over 20 (sic) people per carriage. It was well over 90 degrees. The horses were pouring sweat. It just turned me off on the whole "classic carriage ride." You can see more of Charleston by walking. 7/31/06 -Yahoo Travel Guide Review

The attempt by the City to develop an ordinance to protect carriage horses began in 1993. The process should be completed this or next year but we fear that the end result will be less-than-perfect. The Committee charged with formulating policy seems to be more concerned with placating the carriage industry rather than setting humane working conditions for horses.

Effort began 13 years ago
In June of 1993, the City established a veterinarian consultant panel. It submitted a set of guidelines addressing heat stress and health care management. These guidelines were to be used in developing a medical care protocol to lower the risk of neglect or abuse of carriage horses. It also added specifically that equine veterinarians should be involved in the management but that they not be associated with the carriage industry or humane organizations in order to avoid a conflict of interest

How impartial is advice?
Despite the request, the Carriage Horse Ordinance Committee formed to carry on the task of preparing and ordinance chose in 2004 Dr. John Malark as its sole arbiter of equine medical advice. Dr. Malark has a private practice but he also works for the carriage companies. To my knowledge, no other equine veterinarian has been invited to review the proposed ordinance.

"It's a heat wave - It's so hot fire looks for shade"
The above was the headline in Post & Courier on August 1, 2006. Thanks to Dr. Malark and the Committee, fire has a better chance of finding shade than the Charleston carriage horses. The P&C continues.

The National Weather Service has issued heat advisories, emphasizing the danger for outdoor workers, the sick, elderly, small children.
"When it's hot and humid, you don't get relief from sweating," said meteorologist Wendy Sellers of the weather Service office.
Roper St. Francis Healthcare expects to treat about five patients for heat sickness.

The temperature on August 3 rose to 100 degrees, but most people were in the shade well before the mercury rose so high. Tough for the carriage horses, they were kept working until it reached 98 degrees, the official temperature limit. They were out on the streets again, within minutes after the temperature edged slightly below.

Carriage companies feel that horses being what they are, can easily cope with temperature up to 98 degrees. They say there is no risk to horses when they are pulling their loads at such high temperatures. We disagree and point to the THI or Temperature/Humidity Index.

Temperature Humidity Index (THI) is key
The Carriage companies scoff at the THI. But folk more learned that the Carriage company owners and managers disagree. The Index is the sum of ambient temperature and . For Charleston horses it has been set at 180. Which meant that during our heat wave, Charleston's horses kept working. On the very hottest day, the only relief was a brief few-hour period.

Opinion of Equine Medicine experts
Consider the following extracts from a medical text.

Sweating is the principal means of evaporative cooling in exercising horses…Sweat promotes heat loss only when sweat water is evaporated.

Air temperature, wind velocity and relative humidity influence this (sweating) process, and have led to the concept of 'effective temperature'.
High humidity prevents complete evaporation, with incomplete evaporation sweat production results in little or no heat transfer.

When the sum of the THI is less than 130, heat loss is generally not a problem. When the sum exceeds 150, especially if humidity contributes more than half the sum, the evaporative cooling by sweating is severely compromised. Above 180. normal cooling mechanisms are almost totally ineffectual.

There have been few experimental data on the roles of these factors on horses, which is why the THI level has been proposed as a measure of effective temperature.

Equine Exercise Physiology, G.P Carlson, U.C. Davis Dept. of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine.

Committee disregards opinions of researchers
The response from the Carriage Horse Ordinance Committee and Dr.Malark to the above data was total disregard. Dr. Malark contended that textbooks used by veterinary schools contain data not substantiated by scientific research. Dr. Carlson's paper Thermo-regulation and fluid balance in the exercising horse was published in the textbook, Equine Exercise Physiology. When a copy was given to Dr.Malark, he simply tossed it aside. So much for the concern of carriage horses!!

A real expression of concern?
And how about this statement as an expression of concern by a Committee member? At the May 3, 2006 Ordinance Committee meeting, Committee member Tom Doyle presented the following memo.

Our committee has been working with the assumption that the temperature would be displayed to the public at the gate. After 2 years of deliberations, I have changed my mind on this subject. I feel that any display of temperature can only serve to create awareness as to how hot it is.
The Weather Bug
(the instrument used to determine the temperature) cannot be put up at the gate… I propose leaving it where it is, at the back of my barn on Pinckney Street.

The Weather Bug is located on a pole 15 feet in the air, near a tree and over grass - not exactly where the horses work. Nobody commented that the temperature at "nose height" on the hot asphalt along which the horses were trudging could have been higher, by 10 degrees or more, than temperatures at his tree-height thermometer.

What are extreme temperatures?
In March of 1994, the Tourism Commission developed a Tourism Management Plan. In part it states:

There is a public perception that in the summer months, horses are overworked when pulling full loads of 16 people. Numerous city offices receive complaints. The majority (of veterinarians consulted) felt the horses pulling full loads were not at risk as long as they were not required to work in extreme high temperatures.

Does a heat wave qualify as "extreme high temperatures?" Not in Charleston. Note the use of "horses" and not horse in the 1994 commentary. Today in Charleston one horse is allowed to pull 17 people - 16 passengers and a driver. No other city allows such a large number. Elsewhere, passenger loads range from 2-10.

What do other cities do?
In Houston, while the temperature limit is set at 99 degrees, the THI limit is 150. If Charleston had a THI of 150, horses would have been off the streets just about all day on August 3, and only a few hours if the THI threshold were 160. While some cities do not use a THI reading, their temperatures for pulling horses from the street are set lower. New York City has a limit of 89 degrees, Cleveland, 80 degrees and Denver, 85 degrees to name just a few. Charleston's is 98 degrees!

The Humane Society of the United States recommends a THI of 150.
Other cities are in line with Houston or stricter. In Fort Smith, Arkansas, carriage companies are closed for the month of August. In Rome horses are off the streets during the hottest time of day. In many cities, they are not allowed on the streets during rush hour.

And what about rest periods?
Rest periods elsewhere are determined by tour, length of tour or work hours per day. But the Ordinance proposed for Charleston will be very loose. Rest for our horses is based on "back-to-back" tours, not individual tours. So instead of a 15- minute rest between "individual" tours, Charleston horses must do two tours before a rest of 15 minutes. At least that is how I interpret Animals shall have at least 15 minutes rest between back-to-back tours. Otherwise, why not simply say "between each tour." The purpose of the language is to allow the carriage companies to squeeze as many tours into a limited amount of time when the cruise-ships arrive, and which are anchored some distance from the carriage company barns.

And water for horses serving cruise -ships?
But what about water for the horses serving the cruise-ships? The horses are supposed to receive water between every tour. Yet, according to the Committee there is no water source near the cruise-ship pier and the horses do not return to the barn after each tour. And the committees definition of "tour" leaves a lot to be desired.

Tour or touring shall mean the conducting of or the participation in sightseeing in districts for hire or in combination with a request for donations.

Donations? How long is a tour? What districts? Which streets in the districts?

Many will be looking for a more meaningful and humane ordinance
Some 13 years in the making and this is the best we can expect? Charleston should be able to do better. We expect the final draft of the Ordinance will be completed within the next few weeks. It should go before Council sometime there after. We expect a lot of folk will be expressing extreme disappointment with what is proposed and will be looking to the Mayor and Council to make the ordinance more meaningful and humane.

Your Comments: