The familiar sound of horses on cobblestones will disappear from Old Montreal starting next Tuesday, putting the future of stable owners, calèche drivers and their horses in jeopardy.
Mayor Denis Coderre announced Wednesday he is banning the practice for a year while the city comes up with new rules to improve the industry.
Animal rights activists have been calling for a ban for years, arguing it's cruel to make horses work long hours in difficult conditions, including intense heat and traffic.
An incident last month involving a runaway horse pulling an empty carriage onto a car again thrust the debate into the spotlight.
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But Luc Desparois, the owner of Lucky Luc Stable in Griffintown, said the decision to impose a moratorium came "out of the blue."
Calèche drivers and owners have done everything possible to make the industry safer, Desparois said, while the city hasn't done its part, especially during construction-heavy periods.
Below is an edited excerpt of his conversation with CBC Montreal Daybreak host Mike Finnerty this morning.
How did you find out about the moratorium?
I found out by news people that were calling me in the morning. They are the ones that told me. This is a real heartless decision that the mayor has done because the horses have never been in better shape, everything is in perfect condition as he asked. The mayor knows the horses are in perfect shape. He's telling things that are not true at all.
What's going to happen to your business?
He's putting us in bankruptcy, directly, with no reason. I don't know if it's because they want my land to build condos or close my stables.They've been after this place for a long time because of all the condos and we can't afford to build up a nice stable to impress everybody, but our stable is always open to everybody. People can come and visit and see the horses.
How will you care for your horses?
That's the problem I have to face. I love my horses. I have about 20. A horse is not like selling a car or a truck that you don't need no more. First of all, we'll try to fight with lawyers because this is a decision that is not fair, especially at the start of the season.
Will they be sent to a slaughterhouse?
No. I have good people who can help me out.