CITY HALL — For weeks, animal-rights activists have made sure to be at City Hall early on days when the City Council is scheduled to meet to make a public plea to aldermen to ban horse-drawn carriages.
That push by the Chicago Alliance for Animals — which paid off with plum spots during the public comment period, which is limited to just 30 minutes — will culminate Wednesday when three aldermen urge their colleagues to prevent horse-drawn carriage owners from renewing their licenses in November.
The measure — introduced in December 2017 — has the support of both aldermen who represent Downtown, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42) and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2.) Aldermen Raymond Lopez (15); Danny Solis (25); Anthony Napolitano (41) and Debra Silverstein (50) have also signed on to the ban.
An online petition in the summer of 2017 designed to urge city officials to prohibit horse-drawn carriages from operating when the temperature rises above 75 degrees received more than 6,200 signatures in two months.
Current rules prohibit the carriages from operating when the mercury is 90 degrees or higher or drops below 15 degrees. In addition, the carriages have to shut down if the wind chill drops below zero, or if snow or ice on the ground makes it perilous for the horses to walk, according to city regulations.
The city’s ordinance requires carriage horses to be given water and allowed to rest for 15 minutes out of every hour, and carriages are not allowed on Downtown streets during the morning and evening rush hours. Horses can work no more than six hours a day.
Violations of the city’s rules can trigger fines of between $100 and $1,000.
In May 2017, the last public horse stable in Chicago was torn down to make way for a seven-story, 252-unit apartment building. The stables burned down in February 2015 in what FBI officials said was arson. After the fire, graffiti found inside read “Freedom” and “Free Save the Horses.”
Since then, Chicago’s approximately 25 carriage horses have been housed in a converted warehouse or brought in from outside the city.
The city’s remaining horse and carriage owners told the Tribune the horses are well taken care of and are part of a Downtown tradition the city should preserve.