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City Council, July 19

City to tighten regulations covering carriage horses
Mayor comments on necessity to join Carnival in law suit
Marc Knapp

The proposed amendments to the City’s ordinance covering the care of carriage horses took over a year to shape. But as Council member White told Council last night, they were subject to considerable and lengthy debate by the Tourism Commission. An estimated 20 to 30 members of the horse carriage industry were present last night to show their opposition, though only a few spoke.

City The changes proposed last night were designed to improve the conditions under which the carriage horses lived and worked. Some of the changes had been proposed by citizens when a Carriage Horse sub-committee was formed and met 3 years ago to study possible changes to the City Ordinance

The changes proposed and agreed to last night were:

    To add reasons and requirements for when an animal may or may not work
    To add types of shoes that may be used on animals
    To change the average adequate flesh and muscle tone as determined by the body condition scale of the Henneke Chart, from 3 and 7 to 4 and 7
    To change the watering schedule
    To reduce the rectal temperature monitoring from 90 to 85 degrees
    To change the location of the City’s thermometer
    To permit matting to be used in the stalls
    To reduce the temperature when a fan must be used in a stable from 90 to 80 degrees
    To increase the minimum stall size when stalls are remodeled or created
    To specify the number of consecutive days of pasture time each animal must have quarterly
    To provide for the immediate inspection of records

In noting the time it had taken to shape the proposed changes, Council member White, who sits on the Tourism Committee said that three equine veterinarians (vets) had been retained by the City to study the working and living conditions of the carriage horses. For different reasons, two of them had to bow out of the study. The study was completed by the remaining veterinarian. Another two vets were retained by the City and appointed to the panel and the recommendations of the original panel member studied.

We did not attend Tourism Commission meetings so don’t know exactly what was proposed by the vet panel. But Council member White stressed that its recommendations had been extensively debated. It is possible its recommendations were harsher than those before Council last night. However, considering the horse carriage trade’s opposition to the measure proposed, it merely may have been their strong opposition that delayed implementation.

Council members Seekings, Gregorie and Mallard may not have been opposed to the proposed changes but they were not supportive. Council member Seekings sought a deferral to get more input from the industry and suggested that each proposed change be voted separately. They all had issues over the relocation and installation of another thermometer.

Council member Alexander spoke eloquently we thought when he said that the City too many times asked a committee to make a study and then ignored its recommendation. A panel of experts was retained and it had given its opinion. It was the safety and health of horses that was the issue, not the well-being of the carriage trade, he said. Clerk of Council Turner Maybank, who also sits on the Tourism Commission, added that it was getting hard to find vets who would assist the City. Some vets had noted that the recommendation of others had been ignored so why make the effort, they asked? The implication was that if the Council rejected the current proposals, the City would be hard pressed to find other experts.

Interesting to us was the time spent arguing over the relocation of the thermometer to measure the ambient temperature. The new location will be in Market Street. But readings will be monitored for 3 months to see what correlation there is with those of the thermometer presently used at Calhoun Street. The level of the ambient temperature determines when certain action is taken by the carriage companies in keeping horses on the street. The vets thought that Market Street location would give a better indication of the temperature in which horses operated than that at Calhoun. Not said but implied is that the reading on Market Street will be higher with so much cement and asphalt surrounding it. Consequently, carriages may have to come off streets earlier if the Market Street location were to be used.

Although Council member Mallard did not know what “ambient” meant, he had strong views both on the issue, and generally - he thought that further regulation of the carriage industry was unnecessary. He rose to previously and frequently attained heights of indignation when the Mayor said he would move “asap” to buy and install the thermometer at the new location so comparisons of readings could be made in the hot days of August. Council member Mallard told the Mayor he could not do this as the ordinance had not been given it third and final reading. Council member White said that the Mayor had the authority to spend up to $40,000 without prior approval of Council. This was still not good enough for Council member Mallard who continued to loudly protest. Council member Alexander then moved that Council authorize the approximate $3000 purchase and installation of the new thermometer. Can’t be done as it will still need three readings, Council member Mallard exclaimed. But as said others, this is not an ordinance. The matter died.

We ask, so what if there are temperature differences between readings at the two locations? This issue should be which of the two readings is more relevant. And with horses on asphalt roads all day where temperatures at ground levels are many degrees above the “ambient” temperatures at weather stations, the higher reading of the two ought to be a better measure of conditions for carriage horses

Mayor speaks of necessity to join with Carnival in law suit
It was not on the agenda. Council member Hallman reminded the Mayor that he was going to comment on the City’s plan to join with Carnival Lines to oppose the suit brought about by the Coastal Conservation League and others.

City Counsel De Saussure spoke of the need to take certain action to enable the City to join with Carnival. This action was underway. The States Port Authority was also planning to join with Carnival. Mr. De Saussure opined that there would be no opposition by the court to the City’s proposed plan.

The Mayor also spoke of the issue. He said that the City was virtually compelled to join with Carnival. The law suit that the City had acted illegally and had ignored its own ordinances. It could not sit by and let Carnival proceed on its own when indeed it was the City that was challenged. He said for the City to do nothing would suggest that it did not care and was indifferent. And that was untrue.

Of course, the Mayor said a lot more, about the merit of the suit, the certainty of its failure, the damage it could do to Charleston and other ports, and the real purpose of the suit – to close down the local cruise ship industry. His resolution on this issue is clear and indisputable. When he speaks on the issue, any doubts about the Mayor’s fortitude and tenacity are dissipated. Contrary to the opinion of the President of one of the Neighborhood Association party to the suit, we think the Mayor’s very positive stance is enhancing of his electoral prospects, not otherwise.

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