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St. Louis health director Pam Walker either wants horses that draw carriages on city streets to be treated humanely, or she vows to end the attraction altogether.
Walker was appalled on Saturday night when she saw a horse named Moose breathing heavily in the humid air outside City Museum. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the horse “was showing classic signs of heat stroke.”
Brookdale Farms operator Jerry Kirk, the horse’s owner, refutes that claim.
Walker had the horse examined by a local veterinarian who diagnosed the horse with a chronic lung disease, she told the Post.
Kirk also says that is not true.
“I will not allow this horse to work in my city,” Walker said Sunday. She said all of the horses stabled in St. Louis would be examined.
St. Louis is not alone in its scrutiny of horse-drawn carriages.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to ban the practice during his first week in office. He would later relent on acting that quickly, but he wants the City Council to end the tradition by the close of this year. The New York mayor wants to replace horse carriages with electric cars.
The New York mayor told CBS New York, “A horse in the middle of the streets of midtown doesn’t belong. I think a humane society doesn’t do that to animals.”
This drew outrage from horse-carriage operators, as well as actor Liam Neeson. "This is an industry that’s been here since before Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration," Neeson said. "These horses are well cared for."
In March, Chicago Alderman Edward Burke suggested putting an end to the practice along the Magnificent Mile. Mayor Rahm Emanuel supports stricter regulations, but he has not called for the outlawing of the carriages.
Philadelphia, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and other cities have also had moves to ban horse-drawn carriages. Salt Lake City council members defeated a proposed ban by a single vote, but approved new regulations after a horse collapsed in the street last August and later died.
As of Monday morning, Mayor Francis Slay had not commented on the debate here in St. Louis.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) considers the industry as a form of cruelty to animals. "This is not life as nature intended for a horse," Dan Mathews, PETA senior vice president said in regard to the proposed New York ban. "The reason it's all come to boil now is that finally a mayor [de Blasio] was elected who was among those people who understand that."
The Carriage Operators of North America are resisting moves that would eliminate many of its members. “We're all one mayor away from going out of business," Tommy Doyle, owner of Palmetto Carriage Works in Charleston, S.C. and a CONA board member, told the Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Walker will continue her campaign to protect the horses. After all of them are examined, “we will see what we will do from there,” she says.
“We have a beautiful city to walk and see the architecture," she told the Post. "It is not necessary to have a downtown experience with carriage horses."