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SPCA recommends banning horse carriages from Victoria streets following shocking video

SPCA pushes for changes to Victoria’s horse-drawn carriages
A shocking video has led the BC SPCA to recommend that Victoria's horse-drawn carriages be taken off the city's streets, and limited to parks. Kylie Stanton has the story, and the video.

The video is shocking. Two horses slipping at the Ogden Point cruise ship terminal in Victoria while pulling a trolley full of passengers.

The footage, shot in May, shows one of animals struggling to get up, getting caught in its harness and collapsing, bringing the other horse down.

Now the SPCA has weighed in, calling on major changes to the popular industry aimed at Victoria’s tourists.

“I felt a little bit sick. For me, I imagined an animal that was mine and the stress they would go through. It was hard to watch,” said Amy Morris, Public Policy and Outreach manager at SPCA.

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The SPCA is now recommending the city of Victoria change the rules around horse-drawn carriages. The organization is recommending the rides be restricted to parks, ban the horses being harnessed together and ensure emergency kits are on the carriages if an incident like this happens again.

“The harnesses should have been removed immediately,” said Morris. “It was evident to us that the emergency training for staff was not in place. Our focus is on mitigating risk going forward and our job is to make sure something like this doesn’t happen.”

READ MORE: Victoria group wants horse-drawn carriages banned

Victoria Tours, the company responsible for the horse and carriage shown in the video, sent out a statement in May when the incident took place.

“Both horses fell to the ground, where they remained calm and waited for their handlers to remove their harness. Once they were given the ok from their team, the horses easily stood and walked back to their staging area,” reads the statement.

Global News has reached out to the company for comment.

Jordan Reichert from the Animal Protection Party of Canada says it is clear from the video that the horses did not remain calm on the ground. Reichert says he appreciates the SPCA’s recommendations but believes that a full out ban is more appropriate.

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READ MORE: Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre introduces new rules for horse-drawn carriage rides

“The carriage companies were not handling this situation properly, they were not prepared to handle the situation,” said Reichert. “This is five minutes of video that shows exactly what we have been talking about all this time.”

Victoria city staff is now planning a report that will go to city council. Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe has watched the video and is waiting to see whatever report is produced for council.

“Shock, disgust, sadness, concern, I think anyone who cares about animals would react to this video,” said Thornton-Joe. “There is never been a call for an outright ban and now this is a different direction we will have to consider.”

WATCH HERE: Animal rights activists saddle up for fight to ban horse-drawn carriages in Victoria

Animal rights activists saddle up for fight to ban horse-drawn carriages in Victoria
Animal rights activists saddle up for fight to ban horse-drawn carriages in Victoria

A different horse and carriage company, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, has responded to the SPCA letter in a statement. The company does not understand how one incident has led the SPCA to conclude a potential industry crippling move into parks would solve the problem.

“In every aspect of our operation, Tally-Ho follows strict procedures and precautions to maximize the safety of our horses, staff and the general public. We operate under the guidelines of a comprehensive, 70-page Policies and Procedures Manual, a copy of which was provided to Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe prior to the commencement of our 2018 season,” reads the statement.

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“We are a progressive company that continually implements advancements in the carriage industry and sets high standards of ethics and care. Tally-Ho exceeds both current and proposed regulations. The industry’s safety record is outstanding at only a 0.00001% incident rate over the last 20 years.  We look forward to continued collaborative dialogue with the City of Victoria regarding appropriate oversight of the industry.”

Victoria Carriage Tours provided this statement:

We still stand by our statement, that the video that has surfaced does not tell the whole story.  

Victoria Carriage Tours (VCT) works with the BC SPCA and the City of Victoria with regulations and oversight of our industry.

During  the calendar year of 2017, VCT logged more than 6,000 hours on the street, of which over 700+ hours were directly from trolleys. We have been operating these trolleys for over 15 years servicing mainly the cruise ship passengers without incident. 

Our safety record is outstanding. We take very seriously the training of our horses and staff to ensure public safety at all times.

All horses are prepared for their work in Victoria. The team involved in the incident were unharmed, checked by our veterinarian.

Our ground staff attending the horses assessed the situation , engaged help from horse experienced passengers and 
proceeded slowly to take off the harness which then allowed the horses to get up on their own. 

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The horses were cast due to the incline, the harness, the lack of traction. The horses chose to stay down to wait for human help. 

Upon review of the video we have implemented changes in our policy and procedures

The changes we made were:

• 1 Take the harness off straight away as with single carriages they can often get back up;
• 2 Never travel that route without flaggers.

As with any business you are always learning from situations and experience. We can always do better.

Victoria Carriage Tours has a comprehensive policy and procedures manual that has been in place for 15 years, revised as when needed. 

The manual consists in detail all operations and horse care with accident incident report forms. 

Protocols are in place with instruction on how to handle incidents. 

We have gone above and beyond the City of Victoria and SPCA oversight and regulations.   

I am concerned with the recommendations to prohibit trolley teams in Victoria. Such measures would take away opportunity to assist in training new horses how to do the job. Whether it is a seasoned horse or younger one having a teammate through the streets builds confidence and familiarity giving the horse tools for the job so when they transition to single carriage we have a well balanced happy safe horse, as we can attest to with zero horses or human ever harmed in 15 years.  

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This one incident cannot reflect the whole, not with horses. 

VCT has been seeking scientific medical opinion on the video of which we will share. 

We look forward to working collaboratively with the City of Victoria to ensure the future of the carriage industry.