Animal rights group wants to ban carriage horses in Old Sacramento
But the carriage horses that for decades have clopped through Sacramento’s historic downtown district would go the way of the Pony Express if animal activists achieve their goal.
A loosely organized group known as Working Animal Advocates has launched an aggressive campaign to ban the carriages from Old Sacramento, arguing that forcing horses to pull heavy wagons amid traffic, tourists and inclement weather is abusive.
“This is inherently an inhumane environment for horses,” said Kim Flaherty, a Bay Area activist leading the Old Sacramento campaign. “We understand that the city is trying to capture a historical ambience. But seeing horses working in these conditions is very troubling to me.” In response, the historic district is working to revise a portion of the city code designed to protect carriage horses.
“The code could use some tweaks,” said district spokeswoman Liz Brenner. “We want to do the right thing, offer the horses an additional measure of comfort,” including more shade and additional breaks.
But Brenner ruled out the idea of banning the carriages altogether. “Over my dead body,” she said. “I won’t let it happen.”
In her corner are organizers of the “Save the Carriage Horses of Old Sacramento” campaign, who also have begun gathering signatures.
“The public loves these horses,” Brenner said. “They are absolutely part of the ambience of Old Sacramento.”
While the campaign focuses primarily on the welfare of horses, Flaherty said the carriages also put the public at risk. Drivers slowed by the carriages sometimes use aggressive maneuvers to get around them, she said, and horses have been spooked by dogs, loud music and other distractions.
//Above: Note that “hauling” and “heat”=”hurts” according to the ARs? She apparently has never done any construction work, or even worked outside.//
Dianna Newborn, whose family has operated horse-drawn carriages through Old Sacramento for more than two decades, said she can recall only a handful of incidents in which carriage horses, drivers or members of the public were in jeopardy. Occasionally, she said, dogs have attacked horses. Once, a drunken driver struck a carriage.
Her family’s Top Hand Ranch is one of two carriage operators that serve Old Sacramento, charging $10 per carriage for rides around the district. The company, which features large draft horses as well as retired racehorses, also participates in special events, including a wagon train ride from Nevada to Placerville.
Newborn and Brenner said they were unaware of any carriage incident that seriously injured animals or people in Old Sacramento. Newborn said Top Hand Ranch takes pains to make sure its horses are comfortable and safe.
UC Davis equine veterinarian John Madigan, who is certified in animal welfare, agreed. Madigan said horses in general are “physiologically adapted to working,” even in hot weather, and the Old Sacramento teams are well trained and monitored.
“I think those horses have it pretty good,” Madigan said. “They’re more protected than Caltrans workers. I have never seen them in situations where they are in distress. I don’t see any major risk to horses or the public.