Protesters demand Victoria city council drop proposed ban on horse-drawn carriages
Hundreds of supporters of Victoria’s horse-drawn carriage industry are calling on lawmakers to resist the urge to ban the iconic attraction.
Demonstrators gathered outside City Hall Thursday waving signs and taking turns speaking through a megaphone to the crowd, saying the city would suffer if council goes ahead with the proposal.
“Horses are happy to do their jobs, they’re healthy and they don’t have an issue with being downtown,” one protester said. “The only people who aren’t happy are those who don’t understand.”
WATCH: (Aired May 16) An old-fashioned mode of transportation sparks debate at Victoria city hall
The mayor of Central Saanich, Ryan Windsor, said his Victoria suburb is fully opposed to what his fellow lawmakers are considering.
“Our council was unanimous in its support for this industry, and we’ve let Victoria council know that,” he told the crowd.
Councillors voted last Thursday to further debate the proposed ban next month at a full council meeting. If that vote goes the same way, city staff will be tasked with drawing up a report by September on whether to proceed with the ban.
The motion brought forward by Councillor Ben Isitt would see the industry transition to what he calls “e-carriages,” or electronically-powered carriages, of which only prototypes exist.
Pressure to make changes has been mounting for years, but it was one particular incident captured on video last May that prompted the BC SPCA to recommend a partial ban.
That incident saw two horses owned by Victoria Carriage Tours collapse while carrying a carriage full of passengers. The company said the incident spurred changes to its operations, and that both animals were OK.
The SPCA later clarified its response, saying, “We welcome a solutions-based policy approach that reviews existing practices, barriers and opportunities for horse carriage operations.”
Residents say an outright ban would not only be harmful to the city, but to the horses themselves.
WATCH: (Aired June 5, 2018) SPCA pushes for changes to Victoria’s horse-drawn carriages
“Where are they going to go if they can’t do this?” one woman who didn’t give her name asked.
“They love the attention,” Gail Nash said. “They have a purpose, and they aren’t being abused.”
The carriage industry has said it’s made other improvements, including adding signage and safety kits to its rigs, but an outright ban would be catastrophic.
Other residents say it would be even worse.
“I can’t imagine why they’d want to make it such a bland, boring city,” one woman said.
—With files from Rumina Daya and Kylie Stanton
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