Say Neigh to Councilman Squilla’s Horse-Carriage Expansion

Rush hour is not the time for anachronistically quaint rides.

Did you ever stop and think to yourself: “Y’know who’s not working hard enough around here? Freaking carriage horses.”

Me neither.

While I’m staunchly against animal cruelty, short of puppy mill puppies being ground up and fed to other puppy mill puppies, or bunnies having their eyeballs Clockwork Oranged in the name of millionizing our lashes, animal rights is a cause I generally leave to people more passionate than I.

But there’s something about Councilman Mark Squilla’s proposal to extend the operating hours for horse-drawn carriages that particularly rankles me. Squilla’s proposal calls for a pilot program to allow horses to work rush hour (3:30-6 p.m.) in Center City in the summer.

For starters, imagine the traffic nightmare. It’s summer in Center City, rush hour, and random lanes on random streets are suddenly jammed with slow-moving horse traffic. And to what end? So that moneyed tourists can get anachronistically quaint rides and historical tours of questionable accuracy? For everyone who raised Cain over bike lanes, this is something to get legitimately cranked up about.

But mainly, it’s cruel to put horses out on the street in the dead of summer and the height of rush hour traffic. Regardless of your stance on whether horses should be on busy city streets at all (a number of cities, including our luminaries to the east in Camden, have banned the carriage horse trade entirely), putting them on the streets for rush hour exposes them to exponentially greater amounts of all the stuff activists say is bad for these animals in the first place: heat, exhaustion, car exhaust, and certainly not least of all, the stress of having the revving engines of cars, taxis, buses and emergency vehicles—all in a hurry—whiz by. All of which can lead to “lameness and hoof deterioration.”

Maybe that’s why I’ve got such a soft spot for these indentured creatures: I find biking in rush hour traffic stressful, and I’m not wearing blinders, clopping around on pavement in metal shoes that’ve been nailed to my feet, nor tethered to a 1,500-pound carriage. Plus, I have a say in the whole thing. And I get to go home to a house and not some former industrial building.

In introducing the bill, Squilla explained:

We have a lot of requests from tourists and people who come into the city say that it’s sort of a dead time for them and the carriages are not available. … So we are going to try it and see how it works.

To which I say, bluntly: I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that tourists are calling Mark Squilla, or any other council person, or 311, or 911, to gripe that they can’t get a carriage ride at 3:30 p.m.

Unless … maybe these tourists and councilpeople have played right into the nefarious hands of the dark geniuses at Ye Olde Horse-Drawn Carriage Lobby (Big Horse).

Given the number of high-profile horse deaths and injuries in New York and Philly, among others, we’re overdue for a change in the laws regarding carriages.

Which is all the more reason you should urge your Council representative to, um, say “”neigh” to the pilot program. We should be making efforts to minimize the suffering of these creatures, not squeeze a few more dimes out of them.