Renewed calls for ban on caleches after horse collapses in Old Montreal
Published Tuesday, September 5, 2017 12:00PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, September 5, 2017 11:15PM EDT
MONTREAL - Animal-welfare groups have renewed their calls for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in Montreal after another horse collapsed in the street over the long weekend.
The animal was found lying on its side Monday in front of a square in Old Montreal that is popular with tourists.
Witnesses say the horse was able to get back on its feet after about 10 minutes.
The City of Montreal recently adopted new rules to protect the welfare of horses working in the city's caleche industry.
Last year, Mayor Denis Coderre tried to place a one-year moratorium on the popular tourist draw after several accidents involving caleche horses were caught on camera.
That decision was later reversed after a judge ruled the carriages should be allowed to continue operating.
But Mirella Colalillo, a spokeswoman for a group opposed to caleche horses, said Tuesday the animal that collapsed should not even have been working.
"We've seen her pulling carriages loaded with people all summer, and she's very skinny," said Colalillo of the Anti-Caleche Defense Coalition.
"She's an old horse that needs to be retired."
A city official said in an email that the horse was 15 years old and had no previous problems with her health. A veterinarian said the animal was overweight in 2016, but the problem was corrected this year and she was in good health.
Coderre told reporters Tuesday he's asked for a report into the incident, stressing he didn't think the heat had anything to do with the collapse.
"Initial reports from veterinarians say there could have been extreme fatigue," he said.
But the mayor added the horse won't be back in action until he has had a look at the report.
Colalillo also criticized the city's new bylaw, pointing out that many of the horses are over 15 years old.
"It doesn't say anything about the age limit of the horses, it doesn't address the drivers or the owners, they don't need to know anything about horses, they can just drive a caleche and not know anything," she said.
The SPCA's Sophie Gaillard says the horses are bought when they're already at the end of their working lives, "and they're basically worked to death."
Gaillard said Tuesday the new regulations do nothing to address animal-welfare issues such as the quantity of exhaust fumes the horses are exposed to and the fact they are forced to work on hard pavement for their whole lives.
She added the regulations are mainly focused on improving the image of the industry.
"It's just time to get rid of this industry, it's a tacky industry, it does nothing to improve the image of Montreal with tourists," Gaillard said.
Simon Marceau-Pelletier, a Montrealer who took a dramatic photo of the incident, said he was shocked when he came across the horse lying on the ground.
He regularly sees the horses because he has worked in the area for several years.
"I have never been comfortable with that," he said. "I took the photo, not to show to my friends, but to show there is a real problem."
It wasn't known if the person responsible for the horse had respected the rules that were adopted by the city.
Montreal isn't the only city dealing with tough questions on the safety and welfare of carriage horses.
A petition to ban caleches in Quebec City collected more than 36,700 signatures after two recent incidents involving its horses.
Activists in Victoria, B.C., also started a petition last year to ban carriage rides in that city.