A familiar critic of horse-drawn carriage rides accused Sidney of “promoting the exploitation” of horses by allowing the rides in the community as part of holiday festivities.
Kari Sloane, a former Sidney resident who has been critical of the industry in Victoria, said in a letter to Sidney council that “promoting and hosting” horse-drawn carriage rides represents an “outdated practice that doesn’t align with Sidney’s values” in questioning the value of such rides in a compact community like Sidney.
“Promoting horse-drawn carriages is, in short, promoting the exploitation of horses,” she said. Animal activists including Sloane have asked the City of Victoria to ban horse-drawn carriage rides citing a number of issues including traffic and heat exhaustion on the part of the animals. Officials with BCSPCA are currently reviewing rules around horse-drawn carriage rides in the City of Victoria after the organization initially called for a ban.
Sidney council also received letters from Natasha Illi and Jennifer Forberg, striking a similar note to Sloane’s complaint. Illi said horses do not belong on city streets, while Forberg called the practice “archaic” and “embarrassing” in referring to Victoria. “This is 2019, and we should be looking to be progressive, and stop exploiting animals.”
The letters themselves appear in the public document for Sidney’s regular council meeting Monday night. This said, these complaints might represent the definition of the horse having left the barn, at least when it comes to stopping the rides this year.
Victoria Carriage Tours offered free rides Saturday as part of the Sidney Merchants’ Open House. Interested parties can also book rides through downtown Sidney on Saturdays and Sundays between Dec. 1 and 23 from noon to 4 p.m.
Sidney, meanwhile, rejects Sloane’s argument.
“While staff appreciate the concerns that you raise, we do not believe that the horses associated with the business Victoria Carriage Tours are, in any way being exploited or abused,” said Randy Humble, chief administrative officer in responding to Sloane. Humble described Victoria Carriage Tours as an “established commercial horse-carriage operator” with “considerable experience in operating horse-drawn carriages in an urban environment where safety is paramount.” Humble said staff understand that veterinarians regularly check the horses to ensure their health and well-being.
He also rejected comparisons between horse-drawn carriages operating in Victoria and Sidney in noting that Sidney has less traffic, slower speed limits and a “much smaller” downtown.
“Finally, because this will only be a seasonal operation over the Christmas holidays, excessively high temperatures will not be an issue for the horses,” he said.
Morgan Shaw, executive director and event liaison/facilitator with the Sidney Business Improvement Area Society, said carriage rides have been running in Sidney during the Christmas season “for four years now with great success,” adding her organization works closely with the municipality to ensure Sidney is festive and welcoming during the Christmas season for residents and visitors alike.
“Animal care and safety, specifically regarding horse drawn carriage tours in our downtown area, remains of utmost importance to the Sidney BIA Board,” she said. “The Sidney BIA continues to work closely with Victoria Carriage Tours to ensure all regulations are met and exceeded for their annual visit to our community.”
The company said in a press release that its “operations incorporate a well-balanced strategy developing the wellbeing of our horses” in quoting a general BCSPCA stance on animal welfare, which states that animals “experience good welfare when they are able to experience positive feelings arising from pleasurable activities and the fulfillment of behavioural needs, and when they are free from poor physical health and negative feelings” like pain, discomfort, hunger, thirst, fear and frustration.
“Our carriage operations, in conjunction with our business as a whole, meet and exceed the criteria listed above,” it reads.
Victoria Carriage Tours said in its release that its horses live in a herd environment on a Brentwood Bay farm.
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