UPDATE: BC-SPCA urges Victoria Council to ban horse drawn carriages from busy streets

The  BC-SPCA is recommending changes to the way the horse-drawn carriage business operates in Victoria.

After looking into an accident that saw 2 horses fall to the ground and struggle to get back up at Ogden Point on May 4th, the organization has sent a letter to Victoria Council recommending several changes.

Among them, prohibiting operation on busy streets, limiting carriages to parks, and limiting the size of carriages to those requiring just one horse.

Councillor Charlayne Thornton Joe said the group argues that traffic in Victoria is a major concern:

"What they've said is traffic and congestion in and around our cities in southern BC has increased markedly in the past decade. Combine this growth with a population that is now 3 generations off the farm,  and we have a pace of life and lack of understanding about horses that does not welcome their presence on city streets." 

Councillor Margaret Lucas said she would like more information before she forms an opinion.

“The important thing is we have to separate and take out the emotion and take a look at it in a responsible manner,” Lucas said. “How do we move forward after having received the letter from the SPCA? You have to at some point rely on the experts.”

The animal welfare organization says they believe the horses were “in significant stress for more than five minutes” as staff struggled to get the horses back on their feet at Ogden Point.

The letter will be discussed at the Committee of the Whole on Thursday.   

Victoria Carriage Tours owner, Katarina Sjoblom said following the incident she looked into how they can do better right away, to avoid it happening again.

“As a business we’re always striving to do better and every situation gives us the opportunity to sit back and debrief as every other business does,” Sjoblom said. “Okay, what are we going to change and how are we going to make this better to ensure the safety of our horses and the passengers on board.”

Sjoblom said five minutes is actually pretty quick to have gotten the horses back on their feet.

“It takes longer than five minutes to harness one horse,” Sjoblom said. “It looks like it’s really slow, [but] think about how quickly they got both those horses unharnessed inside of five minutes is really actually pretty quick, even though it looked long.”

Owner of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, Donna Friedlander said the local SPCA representative wasn't consulted before the ban was recommended.

“This letter came from the head office in Vancouver, it was not based on the local SPCA rep who knows our businesses, who knows our horses,” Friedlander said. “This local rep wasn’t even consulted. We weren’t consulted. We didn’t even know about the letter, we weren’t even CC’d on it.”

A veterinarian who checked the horses stated they suffered a few scrapes, but were otherwise fine and ready to return to work.  

-With files from Laura Brougham

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