PEI

Animal rights group calls for ban on P.E.I.'s horse-drawn carriages

A national animal rights group wants P.E.I.'s Animal Welfare Act expanded to include a ban on horse-drawn carriages, but a local operator says working horses are healthy and just doing what they're bred to do.

Carriage tour operator says working horses 'thrive' on it

Sarah Greenan says her draft horses are treated with the 'utmost respect.' (Frankie L/Emerald Isle Carriage Tours/Facebook)

A national animal rights group wants P.E.I.'s Animal Welfare Act expanded to include a ban on horse-drawn carriages, but a local operator says working horses are healthy and just doing what they're bred to do.

Camille Labchuk, CEO of Animal Justice, said horse-drawn carriages should be "a thing of the past."

"Horses deserve the right to live their lives out at pasture enjoying themselves and not forced into labour," she said.

Labchuk's comments come after the city of Montreal announced last week a ban on horse-drawn carriages that will take effect in 2020.

"We would like to see Charlottetown and the whole province of P.E.I. move in that direction," Labchuk said. "Having horses pull carriages is not necessary for transportation."

Horses deserve the right to live their lives out at pasture enjoying themselves and not forced into labour.— Camille Labchuk

Dwight Thompson, the program and legislative specialist with P.E.I.'s Department of Agriculture, said there are regulations around the treatment of horses in the Animal Welfare Act, but an outright ban on horse-drawn carriages was not considered when the act was drawn up last year.

And there have been no formal discussions since then to ban horse-drawn carriages, he said.

'It's not cruel'

Sarah Greenan, the owner and operator of Emerald Isle Carriage Tours in Charlottetown, said some people have a misconception of working horses.

Greenan's eight horses live on a 37-acre farm in Crapaud, P.E.I. (Frankie L/Emerald Isle Carriage Tours/Facebook)

"It's not cruel," she said. "It's what they're bred to do. If the horse is treated good and with a lot of respect, then they thrive on it."

Greenan has eight draft horses, purebred Belgians and Percherons, that she uses in her carriage tours. She said they each weigh more than 950 kilograms (2,100 pounds) and are are capable of hauling six times their own weight on wheels for an eight-hour shift.

Two horses pull her carriage for about five hours a day, each no more than three or four times a week, she said. The carriage can carry 22 people, she said, and when it's full, the horses are pulling about 2,000 kilograms (4,500 pounds) each.

If they do not like working in traffic and they do not like anything about their work, they're no fun to drive and personally I wouldn't have the heart to drive one.— Sarah Greenan

She said she treats her horses well. She chooses a route with no hills, and makes sure they are watered, fed and well rested. Their favourite treats are stud muffins and apples, she said.

'Utmost respect'

She said she tries to educate people who may think her horses are being mistreated.

Greenan says from May to October, her horses pull a carriage for five hours a days, no more than four days a week. (Frankie L/Emerald Isle Carriage Tours/Facebook)

"A lot of times when someone's looking at my horse and they're having a conversation amongst themselves I know what they're saying. And a lot of times I can engage them in a conversation and let them know," she said.

"I like to tell people don't confuse a relaxed horse with a tired horse. If I'm parked and that horse falls asleep, that's OK. That's what you want them to do."

Greenan, who said she's "a bit of an animal rights activist" herself, said she got into the business because she loves horses and has the "utmost respect" for them.

"If they do not like working in traffic and they do not like anything about their work, they're no fun to drive, and personally I wouldn't have the heart to drive one."

When she loads her horses in the trailer every morning, Greenan said they know where they're going and "don't make a fuss."

But Labchuk said it might be different if they were given the choice of "hanging out in the field all day with their friends."

"I think if you asked the horse if they wanted to spend most of their life and their days just trudging around on hot asphalt pulling a heavy cart I think the horse probably would not appreciate that."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Ross

Journalist

Shane Ross is a journalist with CBC News on Prince Edward Island. Previously, he worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. You can reach him at shane.ross@cbc.ca.

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