The BC SPCA advocates for working horse welfare. There is particular concern about the welfare of working horses involved in horse-drawn carriage operations. These horses are responsible for pulling carriages and trollies in urban environments. This can pose many safety risks to the horses and the public, including but not limited to:
- Exposure to traffic (both vehicles and pedestrians) that can result in collisions
- Exposure to the loud noises and unpredictable nature of urban environments, which can spook horses
- Long hours of standing and walking on hard surfaces
- Working in extreme weather conditions
- Inadequate training of handlers in emergency procedures
On May 4, 2018, a traffic accident occurred between a bus and a horse-drawn carriage in Victoria. This incident caused the two horses pulling the carriage to fall to the pavement, and were unable to return to their feet for more than five minutes. It was clear the handlers were not adequately trained in emergency procedures, which resulted in the horses suffering from significant distress.
The BC SPCA investigated the incident and sought expert testimony from national equine veterinary specialist Dr. Bettina Bobsien. The recommendations include:
- Mitigate the significant risks associated with horse-drawn tours by ending the practice on traffic-congested streets, and
- Establish Standard Operating Procedures and planning around emergencies, including training, reporting mechanisms and emergency kits.
The BC SPCA provided letters to the City of Victoria Mayor and Council with recommendations following this incident, seeking action on the recommendations provided. We are open to considering any approach that would provide increased protections to horses from unaware or frustrated motor vehicle drivers.
Horse carriage operations exist throughout the province, and the BC SPCA welcomes the opportunity to engage in dialogue that ensures the welfare of working horses is protected.
What can you do to help horses?
- Report cruelty and neglect: Caring neighbours who make calls to our Animal Helpline allow the BC SPCA to help horses in need. If you are concerned about potential animal cruelty or neglect, please call our Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722.
- Contact city council: Tell your elected officials about your concerns and the need for updated bylaws.
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