Opponents of Victoria’s horse-drawn carriage industry won a battle this week in their war to see the wagons removed from city streets, when the BC SPCA recommended a similar move to city council.
We’d like to think there are other ways to ensure the safety and well being of these animals than removing all horse-drawn vehicles from the Inner Harbour, Old Town (west of Douglas Street) and James Bay, and relegating them to areas in and around Beacon Hill Park.
BC SPCA CEO Craig Daniell couched the recommendations around the viewing of a third-party video of a single incident at Ogden Point, where two harnessed horses hooked to a trolley slipped and fell down. Victoria Carriage Tours staff are admonished for not immediately unharnessing the horses before helping get them back on their feet. A mistake to be sure, but one we’re sure the handlers learned from.
What is being downplayed is the initial cause of the situation, which was a bus driver pulling far too close to the trolley, to the point where the wagon’s tail-end electrical box caught on the front fender of the bus. Should an accident caused mostly by an external party be enough to essentially gut this vibrant industry, which has helped give our downtown its charm with tourists and many locals? We think not.
Daniell and company did offer some useful suggestions, including the establishment of standard operating procedures, emergency management plans for urgent situations, more stringent incident reporting procedures and the inclusion of onboard emergency kits.
More visible signage on the backs of carriages, and perhaps restricting the two-horse trolleys to quieter areas might be other rational changes.
Victoria city Coun. Margaret Lucas commented this week about the need to take the emotion out of the situation to be able to make a good decision. In that regard, council has its hands full with this file. As we know from the reactions we receive on our social media channels to anything involving animals – regardless of the circumstances – this is an issue that can’t help but tug at people’s heartstrings.