By Marc Knapp
The proposed amendments to the Charleston city ordinance covering the care of carriage horses took over a year to shape. But as Charleston City Councilman Gary White Jr. told the council during its July 19 meeting, the amendments were subject to considerable and lengthy debate by the city's Tourism Commission.
An estimated 20 to 30 members of the horse carriage industry were present to show their opposition, though only a few spoke.
The changes proposed were designed to improve the conditions under which the carriage horses lived and worked. Some of the changes had been proposed by citizens when a carriage horse subcommittee was formed and met three years ago to study possible changes to the city ordinance.
Changes proposed and agreed to at the July 19 meeting were:
- To add reasons and requirements for when an animal may or may not work;
- To add types of shoes that may be used on animals;
- To change the average adequate flesh and muscle tone as determined by the body condition scale of the Henneke Chart, from 3 and 7 to 4 and 7;
- To change the watering schedule;
- To reduce the rectal temperature monitoring from 90 to 85 degrees;
- To change the location of the City’s thermometer;
- To permit matting to be used in the stalls;
- To reduce the temperature when a fan must be used in a stable from 90 to 80 degrees;
- To increase the minimum stall size when stalls are remodeled or created;
- To specify the number of consecutive days of pasture time each animal must have quarterly; and
- To provide for the immediate inspection of records.
In noting the time it had taken to shape the proposed changes, White, who sits on the Tourism Committee, said that three equine veterinarians had been retained by the city to study the working and living conditions of the carriage horses.
For different reasons, two of them had to bow out of the study. The study was completed by the remaining veterinarian. Another two vets were retained by the city and appointed to the panel and the recommendations of the original panel member studied.
White stressed that the Tourism Committee’s recommendations had been extensively debated. It is possible its recommendations were harsher than those before council last night. However, considering the horse carriage trade’s opposition to the measure proposed, it merely may have been their strong opposition that delayed implementation.
Councilmen Michael Seekings, William Dudley Gregorie and Timothy Mallard may not have been opposed to the proposed changes but they were not supportive.
Seekings sought a deferral to get more input from the industry and suggested that each proposed change be voted separately. They all had issues over the relocation and installation of another thermometer.
Councilman Aubry Alexander spoke eloquently when he said that the city too many times asked a committee to make a study and then ignored its recommendation.
A panel of experts was retained and it had given its opinion. It was the safety and health of horses that was the issue, not the well-being of the carriage trade, he said.
Clerk of Council Turner Maybank, who also sits on the Tourism Commission, added that it was getting hard to find vets who would assist the city. Some vets had noted that the recommendation of others had been ignored so why make the effort, they asked.
The implication was that if the council rejected the current proposals, the city would be hard pressed to find other experts.
It was interesting to note the time spent arguing over the relocation of the thermometer to measure the ambient temperature. The new location will be in Market Street.
But readings will be monitored for three months to see what correlation there is with those of the thermometer presently used at Calhoun Street. The level of the ambient temperature determines when certain action is taken by the carriage companies in keeping horses on the street.
The vets thought that Market Street location would give a better indication of the temperature in which horses operated than that at Calhoun.
Not said but implied is that the reading on Market Street will be higher with so much cement and asphalt surrounding it. Consequently, carriages may have to come off streets earlier if the Market Street location were to be used.
Although Mallard did not know what “ambient” meant, he had strong views both on the issue, and generally – he thought that further regulation of the carriage industry was unnecessary.
He protested when Mayor Joe Riley said he would move “asap” to buy and install the thermometer at the new location so comparisons of readings could be made in the hot days of August.
Mallard told the mayor he could not do this as the ordinance had not been given it third and final reading. White said Riley had the authority to spend up to $40,000 without prior approval of council.
This was still not good enough for Mallard, who continued to loudly protest. Alexander then moved that the council authorize the approximate $3,000 purchase and installation of the new thermometers.
Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.