CHICAGO (CBS) — If half the City Council gets its way, horse-drawn carriages will be taken off the streets of Chicago.
Meanwhile, as that debate heats up, CBS 2 has learned Animal Care and Control just took a horse off the streets.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, the inspector said the horse was injured and limping on Sunday. The director of Animal Care and Control said that inspector followed the horse back to its stable to make sure it stayed off the street.
All horses could be off the street by next year if a new ordinance passes.
Some call the horse-drawn carriage rides down the Magnificent Mile romantic – a great way to see the city.
“I think it adds character to the city,” said Danny Shugrue, manager of Antique Coach & Carriage.
Others say it is a danger to anyone sharing the road and the animal doing all the leg work.
“Maybe one time horses helped build the city of Chicago, but it’s 2019,” said Jodie Weiderkehr of the Chicago Alliance for Animals.
It’s not a brand new debate in Chicago. But an ordinance introduced and supported by 18 aldermen could put an end to the clippity-clops along Michigan Avenue.
“It’s time to put this archaic practice to rest,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th).
“They’re going to close us down because people don’t like us no more,” Shugrue said.
The horse that was taken off the street on Sunday belonged to Antique Coach & Carriage.
Shugrue: “That horse did not have a problem – just its natural gait. We asked them to bring someone out here that knew a horse. They didn’t have no one to send.”
Molina: “So you’re saying that the city’s animal inspector doesn’t know what they’re talking about?”
Shugrue: “The one that was out here did not know horses.”
Shugrue said further of the horse that was taken off the road: “We have a vet check it every three months, along with all of our others horses. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
Weiderkehr of Chicago Alliance for Animals called that incident a drop in the bucket.
“Most people probably assume these horses are well taken care of, but they simply don’t know the truth,” Weiderkehr said.
Weiderkehr’s group keeps track of how long the horses are working and in what conditions. Those reports are some of what’s behind hundreds of citations and thousands of dollars in fines settled by carriage operators in the city.
“Every time we go out we document numerous violations – including horses being overworked, not provided water, worked when it’s too hot, and many other violations that impact public safety,” Weiderkehr said.
Lopez said there have been hundreds of violations issued for such offenses.
“There have been hundreds of violations that deal with working the animals outside of regulated temperature – so if it’s too hot or too cold, they still have the animals out,” he said. “For working the animals for longer than the time frame allowed – it’s an eight=hour working day. Sometimes they’re out 12 to 14 hours in a day.”
Lopez supported a similar ban that was introduced last year, but believes it has a better chance of passing this time.
“As we see that you’re putting all this undue burden and stress on the animals in an environment that is not their natural environment, we have to take a look as responsible stewards of these creatures and say, do we want this to continue?” he said. “And for myself and a number of members of the City Council, that answer is no.”
Lopez said a vote, as early as next month, could mean what some call old fashioned tradition could be left in the past by 2020.
“One change is that we have more sponsors and a greater willingness by members of the City Council, particularly the new members of the City Council, to put this issue to bed once and for all,” Lopez said.
A City Council committee is expected to review this next month, with a vote possible then or until November.
In 2014, Ald. Ed Burke (14th) proposed banning horse-drawn carriages in Chicago, saying they’re a traffic hazard, a nuisance, and are cruel to animals. At the time, Burke was head of the powerful City Council Finance Committee, but he resigned from that post last year amid federal corruption charges.
Chicago is not the only city where carriage horses have been the subject of controversy and calls for a ban. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio included a call to ban carriage horses from Central Park in his initial 2013 campaign, echoing the demands of the animal welfare group New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS. De Blasio and pledged to replace the carriages with electric old-time style cars that would still appeal to tourists.
But de Blasio later backed down, instead supporting a reduction to the number of carriage horses operating in Central Park and using public funds to move horse stables to a refurbished stable within the park. And earlier this year, New York City also approved a rule forbidding horse-drawn carriages from allowing people to board in the street – leaving some carriage operators infuriated.
While horses remain on the paths of Central Park well into de Blasio’s send term, some also expressed fear that the changes this past March could be the beginning of the end of horse-drawn carriages in New York City too.
Both Burke’s proposal in Chicago and de Blasio’s proposed but later abandoned carriage ban in New York drew consternation from Chicago carriage operators.