There will be no calèches on the streets of Old Montreal this summer.

Mayor Denis Coderre announced during an executive committee meeting Wednesday that there will be a moratorium on the practice for a year in order to re-evaluate the dossier.

The ban begins next Tuesday.

"I'm not all satisfied with the way things have been going with calèches. The best option is to start from scratch," Coderre said.

The mayor said he wanted the horses to return in a year, but with tighter rules and more professional standards.

The announcement follows growing calls for a ban on the industry, spurred by a number of incidents involving the horses.

Last month, a runaway horse pulling an empty carriage rolled onto a car at the corner of Peel and Wellington streets.

No calèches this summer, Montreal mayor says2:06

Will it be permanent?

Animal rights activists have been calling for years for a ban on calèches, saying it's cruel to make horses work long hours in difficult conditions, including intense heat and traffic.

"You just have to know horses, understand horses and know that they don't belong in the city, particularly down where there are so many cars and so much pollution," said Anne Streeter, a longtime opponent of calèches.

Caleche Horse Montreal

Horse-drawn calèches are a frequent sight in Old Montreal, but opposition Projet Montréal wants stricter regulations to protect the horses from the summer's heat. (Morgan Lowrie/Canadian Press)

Streeter, who founded a group called Action Anti-Calèche in 1989, said she was surprised and pleased when she heard about the moratorium on Wednesday.

"I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will be permanent," said Streeter.

The Montreal SPCA, which has called the calèche industry "antiquated, inhumane and unsafe," said it would help drivers place their horses in new homes as an alternative to putting them down.

Workers, horses in limbo

caleche horse in distress

Tara Schulz snapped this photo of a calèche horse in apparent distress last July after it slipped on a metal plate on the road. (Tara Schulz)

Dominique Pelletier, who has been working as a calèche driver for more than a decade, said an entire industry would suffer and many people would lose their jobs because of the moratorium.

Pelletier recently completed a master's thesis at Concordia University about the industry. She said most owners do their best to care for their horses.  

"What I think is not fair is that a lot of people are doing their jobs the right way," she said.

"This is going to be very problematic for them. For a lot of people, it is the way they earn their living."

Calèche drivers who have already been issued permits for this year will be reimbursed.

Calèche driver Moise Cohen said he was unhappy with the "suddenness" of the move. He said at the very least, he and his colleagues should have been warned before the year started of the city's intention to shut down their industry.

"Taking away [our] right to win our livelihood, it kind of shocks me," he said.

He added that he only turns a profit in the summer. The rest of the year, he's losing money.

André St-Amand, 55, has been a calèche driver since he was 14 years old. His horse, Duc, is 15.

"What are we going to do with the horse?" St-Amand said. "And I'm unemployed as of Tuesday."

St-Amand said it would make more sense for the city to announce a ban starting in October, so at least the drivers can earn a living through their busy season.

He worries he'll be pushed into minimum-wage work after the ban.

St-Amand estimates it will cost him $400 per month to keep his horse during the ban, and he won't have any revenue. 

String of controversies

tourist old port

Johann Diermann from New York said horse carriages stroll through Central Park and from an external perspective, everyone seems to like them. (Ainslie Maclellan/CBC)

Last summer, a photo of a horse that had slipped on a metal plate renewed debate about whether the practice still belongs in Montreal.

The horses were also pulled off the streets temporarily during a heat wave.

Projet Montréal has been calling for a public consultation on the future of the calèche industry.​

The mayor of New York City tried to have its horse-drawn carriages restricted to Central Park, but the initiative failed earlier this year.

In March, activists in Victoria, B.C. launched an online petition to ban the practice in that city.

What tourists say

New York tourist Johann Diermann worries about the animals.

"Usually we err on the side of human needs and what we want," Diermann said. "I would like to err on the side of the animals."

Anita Michel is visiting from Germany.

"When we were in Vienna, we took one, and it was very pleasant," Michel said. "It was a possibility to see the street very slowly. I enjoyed it, I must admit it."