Hot controversy: Charleston to review carriage horse rules

AP News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2016 11:14 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Charleston will review city rules on the treatment of carriage horses and mules after receiving dozens of complaints about the animals working in the heat this summer.

Dan Riccio the director of the city's Department of Livability and Tourism tells The Post and Courier (http://bit.ly/2a7LNKP) the city received about 50 complaints in June and July in a year when the weather has been hotter than usual.

Riccio said the committee will evaluate whether the temperature at which the animals are now pulled from the street is too high and whether the loads they pull are too heavy.

Carriage horses in Charleston, as well as in Savannah, Georgia, now are now pulled from the street when the temperature reaches 98 degrees or when the heat index reaches 125 degrees.

But Riccio said some cities require that horses be brought back to their barns when the temperature reaches 90 degrees.

It's been unusually hot this summer in Charleston and the average high this month has been more than 95 degrees. Normally the average high is about 91 degrees.

Riccio said horses and mules have been pulled off the street twice this summer because it got too hot.

Joe Elmore, executive director of the Charleston Animal Society, said his group has been pushing for years for tighter rules on the carriage industry.

The group ran a full-page ad in the newspaper earlier this month questioning whether anything has changed since a year ago when a 1,650-pound Belgian draft horse pulling a carriage fell and couldn't get up after being spooked by a cement truck.

A city review found the fall was the result of an underlying medical condition with the animal, not the result of heat or neglect.

Riccio said he has put in reforms since starting as department director in December.

City staffers now inspect stables at the city's five carriage companies once or twice a month. In the past, that had been done only once a year. The city follows up on accidents and complaints, and a staffer maps construction sites and makes sure carriages are rerouted around them.

Elmore welcomes the changes but is pushing for other requirements including that the carriages be weighed and lowering the maximum temperatures during which animals are permitted to work.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com