DOWNTOWN — Aldermen are renewing a push to ban horse-drawn carriages from Chicago.
The carriages have been used Downtown and at special events like weddings for decades. But they’ve also been targeted by different aldermen over the years, and now more than 20 are sponsoring a proposed ordinance that would put the carriage companies out of business in Chicago, said Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).
The ordinance would make it so Chicago Animal Care and Control would no longer license the carriage companies. Without licenses, the companies would have to stop working at the start of the new year — in effect, banning them for the future.
Lopez, who is one of the ordinance’s co-sponsors and is also considering a push to ban all farm animals from Chicago, said the ordinance is needed because the carriage companies aren’t doing enough to protect their horses and are overworking the animals.
Lopez would rather get rid of the business than spend taxpayer money on policing carriage companies, he said. His ward isn’t home to horse-drawn carriages, but he said his residents don’t want to see animals hurt.
“This is a relic from a bygone era,” said Lopez, one of the ordinance’s co-sponsors. “If the operators are not willing to police themselves in a way that is beneficial to the city of Chicago and continues the humane and safe standards that the law requires … it’s time to have this conversation that maybe we don’t need this industry anymore in Chicago.”
Lopez pointed to an incident this weekend where a company was cited by Animal Care and Control as evidence the ordinance was needed.
Kelley Gandurski, Animal Control’s executive director, said in a statement that the department had received a complaint about an injured horse — named Forest Gump — working with the Antique Coach and Carriage Company on Sunday. An inspector went to the horse and noticed it had wounds on its back legs and a limp.
The Antique Coach and Carriage Company was cited for working a wounded horse and not providing water to the horse within the working hour, Gandurski said.
But Forest Gump was seen by a vet on Monday and the vet reported the horse was healthy, according to Gandurski’s statement. The horse had a minor injury to its back leg but no open wound, and it wasn’t worked on Tuesday.
“This horse is healthy, sound and fit for performance!” the vet wrote on a report provided to Block Club Chicago by Animal Control.
Debbie Hay, the owner of the Antique Coach and Carriage Company for 35 years, said the horse had a “superficial scratch,” isn’t lame and was never limping. Forest Gump is back to working, Hay said Wednesday.
“He’s fine. He never really had a problem,” said Hay, who added her company might file a complaint against Animal Control. “They should have sent a vet if they deemed the horse injured — not an unskilled, ignorant investigator.”
And Hay’s not happy about the push to rid Chicago of horse-drawn carriages.
“Working horses need a job and need to work,” Hay said.
Hay said the push to ban carriage companies comes from animal activists who are trying to push an agenda, which she called “a shame.”
“We don’t adhere to their agenda, and their agenda is to eliminate animals,” Hay said. “We have a perfectly legal business. Just because we’re using animals, that’s why they’re getting rid of us.”
Lopez said almost half of City Council is in support of the proposed ordinance, but they’re facing a “time crunch” since carriage companies will be able to renew their licenses for a year come November unless the ban is already in effect. He’s hoping the ordinance will pass through committee “swiftly” and politicians will then be able to “once and for all move on to the other serious issues that are plaguing our city.”
“We heard the testimony from the operators and we know that a lot of people have said this is a classic Chicago institution … but this is an archaic tradition whose time has come to an end,” Lopez said.
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