ABC 4 News reports that a carriage horse collapsed in downtown Salt Lake City over the weekend. According to the owner, the horse was suffering with a bout of colic, but his condition was not known prior to his shift beginning for the day.
The horse had to be moved using heavy equipment because he would not stand. He was returned to his barn for recovery. Colic, a condition which refers to an impaction or block in the stomach or intestine of an equine, usually manifests symptoms that include a lack of appetite, listlessness, biting at the stomach, constant rolling, thrashing and rising repeatedly, and/or lying without a desire to stand. A veterinarian is almost always necessary to help the blockage pass, and occasionally requires surgery.
The incident has led to a group of citizens creating a petition to the City Council of Salt Lake City to eliminate horse drawn carriages in the city. The petition header reads:
"Help put a stop to the inhumane cruel working conditions and suffering of the slaved horses in Salt Lake City. As some of you have already heard, a horse named Jerry collapsed today in downtown Salt Lake City on State Street and South Temple. Jerry was being forced to pull a carriage in sweltering heat (the high was 98 today). He had ropes tied around his legs so that he could be dragged into a trailer, and then at the stable he was lifted into a barn - out of sight - with a fork lift. Awful, sad, and unnecessary. It's time for Salt Lake City to do away with this cruel industry. Please contact the Salt Lake City Council and politely tell them to end this cruelty!"The author of the petition was contacted for further information, but at the time of print had not responded. As of 10:31a.m. this morning, the petition had 1,160 signatures.
In response to the outcry for banning carriage horses, other local horsemen have advocated that the carriage industry continue, as the work level is moderate, and provides a purpose for heavy draft horses who would have little other function or opportunity for lifelong care and attention. Meisja Turner Wagner of the the horse rescue Stable Place SLC, and also a former carriage driver, would point out that putting these horses out of work doesn't guarantee that their life would get better.
"If the horses have no job, then they have no food or shelter or care. If the horses are not working, who will take them? Will you? Can you afford to throw hundreds of dollars a month into this animal's food and basic care? These horses never trot on the pavement, they walk. They are better cared for than many humans in my neighborhood. If you think this is so bad, then what is your solution? That all the horses go magically live on some beautiful mythical pasture somewhere rural? Where magically their teeth will be floated, hooves trimmed, vaccinations given, wounds treated, diets monitored, all at no charge?"She added that in the current state of the horse market and the high number of homeless horses, their facility is completely full, as are most other local rescues.
A city ordinance currently exists that requires the horses to be watered and given breaks every 2 hours, and limits how many hours a week the horses can work. It also includes a heat ordinance that restricts work over a heat index of 150 degrees (107 degrees with 57% humidity, or something comparable).
The owner of the carriage horse stated that this is their first incident of this nature in 27 years of business. At last update, the 13 year old gelding, Jerry, was given a 50/50 chance of recovery.