Victoria city council will bow out of the horse-drawn carriage ban debate, meaning any discussions of a phase-out have been discarded.
In council’s quarterly update, councillors considered preparing bylaw amendments to specify a maximum temperature of 28 degrees, banning travel down Oswego and Superior streets, and posting more signage along horse carriage routes.
Ultimately, however, council opted to receive the recommendations and do nothing at this time.
This motion was put forward by Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who succinctly commented “it’s time to move on.”
The motion passed six-to-two with Coun. Ben Isitt and Coun. Sharmarke Dubow opposed.
“I’ve heard some substantial support [for change] from the public,” Isitt said. “But certainly in terms of regulatory change going as far as a phase-out doesn’t seem to be supported at this time, at least in terms of council members.”
The move comes after a years-long debate over whether horse-drawn carriages should be banned from city streets for the sake of animal safety.
Animal activists were vocal on the perceived instances of animal cruelty, especially linked to double-horse carriages, while equestrians argued that the horses are maintained with great care scrutiny, and enjoy being around people.
A letter from the BCSPCA dated Nov. 19 helped cool the issue by showing support for the horse-drawn carriage industry, a 180-degree turn from an original letter in June 2018 that called for the ban of horse-drawn carriages from downtown streets.
“There’s no question we’re elated that council decided to put this potential ban off to the side,” said Victoria Carriage Tours General Manager Tom Walker in a statement. “It allows an iconic Victoria tourism activity to continue, it saves the jobs of those drivers – most of them young women – who rely on our industry to help them meet their tuition and other costs. And above all else, it saves our horses from boredom, frustration or worse.”
Tally-Ho Tours owner Donna Friedlander said the decision was a weight off her chest.
“It’s really, really great news for us,” she said. “It’s been a couple years of discussion, and we’ll continue working with city staff to keep making improvements.”
Some of these improvements include more signage along horse routes, something which can be put up by the city’s operational staff without direction from council.
“We’ve been asking for signage for many years, and the city is starting to listen which is really great.”
The tourism season is picking up and more customers have been seeking out the carriage services recently. According to a shared report between Tally-Ho and Victoria Carriage Tours, the horse-drawn carriage industry services approximately 75,000 tourists every year.