Caleche horse drops dead in Old Montreal

Dozens of Montrealers and tourists were in shock as they watched a caleche horse collapse and die on a street in Old Montreal on Sunday afternoon.

The incident happened at about 3:00 P.M. on St-Jean St., near St-Sacrament St. 

Witnesses said they could hear the horse coughing as it was pulling a carriage full of people nearby. Its driver dropped off the passengers and detached the caleche when the coughing became more serious. About 30 minutes later the horse collapsed, and died not long after.

"This is such a sad story,” said Mayor Plante, at a media scrum on Monday morning. “To me it just re-enforces our will, that it doesn't make sense to have caleches in the streets of Montreal anymore. Horses should be somewhere else. They shouldn't be dealing with pollution and the noise."

The mayor doubled down on her commitment to ban the use of horse-drawn carriages by the end of next year, but did not entertain the idea of accelerating the legislation.

“Speeding up will be difficult,” she said. “We need to make sure that things are done properly and that (caleche drivers) can find their way out of the industry.”

Montreal police responded to the original call, with representatives of the Montreal SPCA arriving soon after.

“The SPCA is asking the City to ensure increased oversight of carriage horses,” the association said in a statement.

The SPCA does not have the power to apply provincial animal welfare legislation to horses, so the file was transferred to Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ).

A photo of the horse on the ground was posted to social media, sparking outrage among animal lovers.

"Animals don't exist for human entertainment. How many have to die before people realize that?" wrote one young woman. 

"We walked by this horse in Old Montreal today and it seemed very disoriented," one witness wrote on social media.

A member of the Anti-caleche defense coalition Facebook group later confirmed that the horse, named Zeus, was sick. His carriage driver told La Presse that Zeus had a bit of flu earlier in the morning, but it did not appear serious.