Working horse welfare and horse-drawn carriages
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Horse-drawn carriages

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 that 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 the horses
  • Long hours of standing and walking on hard surfaces
  • Working in extreme weather conditions
  • Inadequate training of handlers in emergency procedures

The BC SPCA provided a letter [PDF] to the City of Victoria Mayor and Council with recommendations following an incident between a bus and a horse-drawn carriage on May 4, 2018, leading to two horses down on the pavement and having difficulty returning to their feet for more than five minutes. The BC SPCA investigated the incident and sought expert testimony from national equine veterinary specialist Dr. Bettina Bobsien. The recommendations include:

  1. Mitigate the significant risks associated with horse-drawn tours by ending the practice on traffic-congested streets,
  2. Limit horse-drawn vehicles to one horse operation, and
  3. Establish Standard Operating Procedures and planning around emergencies, including training, reporting mechanisms and emergency kits.

Upon request from Council and based on new information that Beacon Hill Park has commercial restrictions that would prevent carriage operations from being located in the park, the BC SPCA followed up with a second letter [PDF]. This letter provides clarification that, while we made specific recommendations that we would like to see action on in our initial letter, 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.

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