With all of the pressure to close existing horse carriage businesses around the country, youíd think that new cities would try to avoid that controversy altogether. Apparently, Las Vegas is not following that logic. This month, Sin City voted to approve a carriage horse company to operate downtown.
As contentious as this issue has been nationally, itís been no less so in Vegas. Mayor Carolyn Goodman opposed bringing in horses, as did three members of the city council, but ultimately the four other members of the council outvoted them. Those who approved the business believe that it will bring money and jobs to the community, as well as provide tourists with an additional reason to stay in the downtown area.
Opponents have argued against carriages not just from an animal welfare standpoint, but also as a matter of city planning. In addition to impeding traffic, the approved horse carriage route will cross the busy Las Vegas Boulevard at six different intersections. With the areaís usual bustle Ė not to mention intoxication Ė critics see this business as an accident waiting to happen.
The writing on the wall wasnít enough to sway the majority of Vegas politicians, however. ďI think itís something we need to at least allow to take place for 12 months,Ē said Ricki Barlow, a city council member. The current plan is to issue a yearlong permit and reassess the businessí value to the city at the end of the period.
Love Carriage, owned an operated by spouses Margarita Ramos and Giovanni Padron, have promised to adhere to rules to maintain a certain standard of care for carriage horses:
- Horses may not be whipped
- Horses will be fitted with custom-sized soft harnesses
- No more than five passengers in the carriage
- Horses cannot work when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Horses are limited to working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week
- For better or worse, horses will wear diapers to prevent excrement from landing on the street
Still, animal activists are dubious that these rules are enough to prevent cruelty and harm to the horses. The regulations are far shorter and less specific than other citiesí rules. For example, the Las Vegas horse carriage regulations are only 7 pages, compared to NYCís 38 pages. Even the owner of one of New Yorkís major carriage companies acknowledged that Vegasís existing codes are weaker than in other parts of the country.
Furthermore, council members like Lois Tarkanian are dubious that local animal control agencies would be able to keep tabs on the horse carriage business to ensure that they were following the existing regulations. She pointed out that animal control still hasnít been able to successfully tackle the cityís homeless cat and dog situation yet.
From a public relations standpoint, the carriage horses are a risky venture in their own right. Given the outcry against horse-drawn carriages in other parts of the country, itís possible that their presence will deter more tourists than they appeal to.
Despite the city councilís vote, it might not be too late to prevent Love Carriage from actually getting started. Because the carriage company would still need to obtain a business license and approval from the Nevada Transportation Services Authority, concerned animal activists in the state have written a petition asking for those permissions to be denied.
Join in calling on the NV TSA to refuse to endorse this cruel industry by signing here.