Montreal’s iconic horse-drawn carriages that transport tourists through the cobblestone streets of the old city are banned for one year, Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday.
Coderre said the city will take the year to create new guidelines for the popular tourist draw, which has faced mounting criticism following a couple of well-publicized incidents that have put the animals’ well-being into question.
“I was not at all satisfied with the way things are running at the moment,” Coderre said. “The best option is to restart from zero and give ourselves all the necessary tools to ensure this is a source of pride and not a source of irritation.”
Last summer, Coderre ordered a veterinary report into the health of the animals after photographs circulated widely on social media showing a horse that slipped and fell on a metal plate outside.
The horse’s owner, Luc Desparois, said at the time the animal wasn’t injured, adding that veterinarians regularly check the health of the horses.
But in April, a horse-drawn carriage collided with a vehicle near Old Montreal and the incident reignited the debate over the ethics of the industry.
Animal-welfare advocates have long been calling for a ban on horse-drawn carriage tours, known in the city as caleche rides, saying it’s dangerous and cruel to make horses work in Montreal’s traffic-clogged streets.
Activists in Victoria, B.C. have also begun a petition to halt horse-drawn carriage rides in that city.
Coderre said he had lost patience with the industry and would revoke the city’s 24 caleche permits beginning Tuesday.
Drivers and owners who have paid for 2016 permits will be reimbursed.
The mayor added the city’s new guidelines will “ensure optimal conditions for the horses.”
Mirella Colallilo, with the Anti-Caleche Defense Coalition, said she was “surprised and happy” to hear the horses won’t have to work in the heat this summer.
She is hoping the city will choose to permanently ban horse-drawn caleches.
“I think it would be best and it makes sense just to retire the horses and make this a part of the history of Montreal,” she said. “We move on, we evolve, and things change.”