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Carriage Tour Oversight Works by Tom Doyle

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? I don’t know about that, but when a horse falls in the city, the sound is deafening. Almost lost in the entire conversation is the result: The horse got back on its feet, walked into a trailer, was treated and examined by one of the top equine veterinarians in the state and was pronounced fit and healthy. Why then is the outcry so disproportionate to the actual incident?

Most people deplore any form of animal abuse and the implication that this was a case of abuse was enough to ignite the fuse. I was present at the protest July 21, and one protester carried a sign that read, “8 incidents in 6 years; when does it become too much?”

I went over city records, did some math and found that over 99.996 percent of carriage tours end without incident. The photograph of Blondie is no more indicative of carriage tours than a photo of an airplane crash is of the airline industry.

Our society is several generations from the farm and most people neither understand nor appreciate the ability and adaptability of horses and mules, often equating use with abuse. Caitlyn the dog was certainly abused. The carriage animals in Charleston are not.

Most surprising was the statement from the Charleston Animal Society. Each and every concern it raised was addressed and codified by the city five years ago.

A representative of the CAS, then known as the John Ancrum SPCA, along with an equine veterinarian and several members of the community, myself included, spent a year and a half serving on a committee that created the ordinance passed by City Council. Admittedly 99.99 percent isn’t perfect, but I wish that everything in my life offered this level of certainty.

The figure does indicate the ability of our animals to work in this environment. What is perfect is the heat protocol. Not a single heat-related incident has occurred under guidelines first established almost 30 years ago. This is the system that Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore, has described as “broken.”

The Charleston animal care ordinance is a model for cities all over the country. The Department of Tourism Management oversees this system very effectively, examining our animals, carriages and records on a regular basis.

A city employee before every tour visually inspects each animal. The charge that we have some sort of financial relationship with the city that renders them unable to properly administer the system is insulting to Mayor Joe Riley, City Council and the Tourism Department.

Our relationship with the city is like that of any other business. We pay taxes and fees. Why this would preclude regulatory oversight of one particular business is beyond me.

Tom Doyle

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