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Re: Online Petition

An online petition advocating banning carriage tours in Charleston has been circulated to both local politicians and businesses. Particularly disturbing is the prominent display of names of local businesses as “petitioning businesses” as if they are supporting this initiative when they are not.[1] This type of misrepresentation resonates throughout the entire petition. Underlying it all is a general tone of nastiness as both my honesty and humanity are questioned as well as the competence of the city and the veterinarians. Contemplating the best response, I have broken the petition down section by section to address each inaccuracy.  My purpose is to educate by presenting a factual,, verifiable case supporting the use of my animals.

EXTREME HEAT: Charleston has a subtropical climate with warm humid weather much of the year.   Carriage operators operate their horse wagons at 98 degrees, with no consideration for high humidity, which can make the temperature feel well into the 100s.  It is the highest cut off point in the US.   Summer heat and humidity can be very hard on horses, particularly working ones.  People who work outside in the heat are able to stop for a break.  Not so for the horses.  They are at the mercy of their owners — people who make money off their backs and will push them to continue.   The temperature is not taken at street level where the horses work on hot asphalt.  Instead, it is taken 40 feet above where it is cooler.

We certainly do address the humidity with a city ordinance that sets a heat index limit of 125 at which time we cease operations. As for the ability of the animals to work and remain healthy under this system, since temperature limitations were adopted in 1986, we have had no heat-related incidents during this 30-year period.  No animal breaks? Wrong again. Animals get at least 15 minutes in front of water between each one-hour tour.  When the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory, Palmetto Carriage stretches the time between tours to 45 minutes. The city code of Charleston contains the most comprehensive animal care program in the country.  It is easily accessible online. The record keeping requirements have enabled us to create a history of animal care overseen and inspected by the city. These records tell of a program that has protected the health of these horses while allowing them useful and productive lives. If you have ever wondered about how much our animals work, check out the attached 2015 animal work summary.[2] The methodology of measuring the temperature is that of the National Weather Service, not of the carriage operators. NWS methodology has always been the basis of the system. The petitioners would have you adopt their own methodology.

CRUEL INHUMANE IMAGE:  The City allows one horse to pull a wagon of 17 people. The image of a struggling horse pulling ignorant tourists reflects very badly on Charleston.

So the horse is struggling and the tourists are ignorant.  Horses pulling carriages is nothing new. Pulling doesn’t require the same strength as carrying. The level topographyt of the Lowcountry combined with paved roads and roller bearing wheels allow a 1500 pound horse to easily pull a 16 passenger carriage. Simple physics, the same physics that allows you to push a car you could never carry.

SELF-MONITORING:  Charleston relies on the carriage operators to self-monitor their business with very little oversight.  This in itself is a glaring conflict of interest with no one advocating for the horses.   Additional regulations have proven not to work in cities that have tried it because they cannot be enforced.

We don’t self-monitor, we keep the records and the city monitors our records and enforces the ordinance with a dedicated equine manager. That’s pretty much the program. I fail to see any conflict of interest, but I see the implication that neither the city nor I can be trusted.

TOO MANY STUDIES WITH NO RESULTS:  The carriage horse industry and the City of Charleston have demonstrated time and again that the system does not work, engaging in numerous studies, which have not resolved anything. The system has not changed and accidents, injuries and inhumane conditions have continued. Profits appear to be more important than compassion and humanity.

The petitioner is correct in that there have been many studies, but incorrect in stating there have been no results. The results have validated the effectiveness of our animal care program time and time again, right down to studies done specifically on Charleston carriage animals, Retrospective Review of Carriage Horse and Mule Welfare in Charleston, South Carolina (2009-2012) published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science [3]. The animals are fine according to both our veterinarian and the city appointed veterinarian. Years of record keeping and veterinary inspections validate this.