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Carriage Horse Committee, September 13

A slow walk for carriage horse ordinance
Issues remain over workloads, temperature and humidity thresholds
Warwick Jones

There was little action stemming from yesterday's meeting of the Carriage Horse Committee. Mr. Tom Doyle, the representative of the Horse Carriage industry was absent. In consequence, the Committee decided not to vote on any anything substantive. It seemed that members also were reluctant to discuss important issues.

The Committee was formed by the City through the Tourism Commission to develop an ordinance regulating the welfare of carriage horses. It has been about its task now for two years and is close to producing a final draft for submission to City Council. The Chair of the Committee today spoke of progress and the incorporation into the ordinance of the recommendations of Mr. Alan Berger, a former director of the SPCA. She did comment that two major issues still need to be addressed - the maximum load the carriage horses could pull, and the heat/humidity levels under which the horses could work. The citizens present thought there were many more issues that needed to be addressed.

Cosmetic changes to Ordinance
City Attorney Borden commented that she had made some changes to the draft ordinance that had been submitted to the Committee at the last meeting. These changes were not substantive, merely grammatical. However, she did refer to the need for wording of the Certificate of Serviceability to be signed by the veterinarian undertaking health inspections mandated in the ordinance. A draft of the certificate was provided by Dr Malark who is a member of the committee.

Public has many issues
And then the meeting was open to the public. In no particular order, comments related to
• Definitions. The ordinance was too loose, and words such as "work", "resting" and "back to back tours" needed to be more narrowly defined.

• Incorporating the Henneke. When determining adequate "flesh and tone". Level 5 should be adopted

• Heat and humidity. The limits set in the ordinance with too high - 98 degrees for temperature and 180 for the Temperature Humidity Index (THI). Research showed that to limit stress on horses, lower temperatures and temperature-humidity reading thresholds were necessary.

• Loads. Maximum loads were far too high and above other cities. Under the proposed ordinance, a single horse could be pulling 2 tons

• Need for barns to be kept in the City

• Temperature. Measurement of ambient temperature was all well and good, but it did not necessarily reflect the temperature on the roads on which the horses were pulling. Where was the weather measurement to be taken?

Response from committee
Dr. Malark was quick to diffuse the issue of the Henneke Chart. He was happy to incorporate the wording in.the ordinance. The Chair of the Committee also addressed the issue of the location of the weather station. It was to be located at the back of a barn on Pinckney Street. There had been considerable discussion about where the station should be located. But to us, it seems there is little difference as to whether the ambient temperature is measured at the barn, Custom House, Lockwood Police or Cannon Park The difference in readings is likely to be small. More important is the adjustment needed to reflect the likely much higher temperature existing above the asphalt surface over which the horses will be pulling.

Another member of the Committee said that issues in relation to the proposed ordinance should be put in writing and submitted to the committee before the next meeting. In this way, it would make it easier for the committee to address them. Good point, and those involved said they would do so.

Chair has welcomed public comment
Although we may differ with some of the views of the Committee, we would compliment the Chair for her approach. As said in her opening remarks, she's attempted to involve the community as much as possible, and has allowed members of the public to speak during proceedings. How much of what the public had said has been incorporated in the ordinance remains debatable, but the public has been given an opportunity to be heard.

But not all members happy with public interaction
Public participation seems to make one member of the Committee uncomfortable and her body language suggested that she wanted the Chair to curb public comments. She also took exception to a comment that little had been done for carriage horses since the formation of a committee 13 years ago to study the issue of carriage horse welfare. She said the City had acted on the recommendations of the first committee though they had not been formally adopted. As the recommendations were not enforceable, we think that what the member of the public said still stands!

The meeting closed as members agreed to defer discussion on the substantive issues, with Dr Malark saying he had no expertise on what loads horses could pull. Full marks for honesty. But somehow if you don't have knowledge of the load that horses could pull, you don't have a good understanding of the physiological impact of an excessive load. One of the results could be sweating and a rising temperature. And isn't this fundamental to the welfare of a horse? And isn't this an issue before the committee? Where does the committee go for expert advice?

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