Debate stirring over Montreal's horse-drawn carriages
Caleches might be a fixture in Old Montreal, but criticism of the vintage mode of transportation is mounting as pictures of a horse that fell circulate on social media.
The horses go down Notre Dame St. to make their way to the Lucky Luke Stables in Griffintown, where the majority of caleche horses reside.
One horse was making the trip Tuesday night, walking toward Peel St., when it hit a metal grate and fell.
A driver on that street who was concerned about the health of the horse took photos and posted them to an anti-caleche Facebook page, urging people to contact Mayor Denis Coderre to denounce the practice. Her post ignited a debate about whether caleches should still be used in Montreal.
The mayor has weighed in, ordering to see veterinarian reports for all the horses that work pulling the carriages.
The horse that was involved in the accident is off for a few days but isn’t injured. The owner says he's been unfairly targeted.
Luc Desparois said he and others in the industry are used to thecriticism but that what happened Tuesday was due to driver error. Normally when there’s construction, rubber mats are put down on the metal grates so the horses can walk over, or drivers avoid those areas altogether. But it was a new and inexperienced driver working that day who didn’t follow procedure.
Desparois also objects to the fact that the mayor's now calling to see the reports on the health of the horses. He says they do their utmost to make sure the horses are healthy.
“The veterinarians are always checking at least once, twice, sometimes three times a week, understandably. Minimum once a week they come by and check all the horses. They even come to my barn. I don't tell them not to come, even sure if I’m not sure they’re allowed to. But I don't care. The door is open,” he said.
Desparois said the horses are city horses, used to the heat, exhaust and construction so they aren’t in any danger.
But the Montreal SPCA says it is extremely concerned about the welfare and safety of carriage horses in Montreal. The organization says it has been against the use of horse-drawn carriages since 1869.
“Carriage horses must endure extreme temperatures, lameness caused by constantly standing and walking on hard pavement, the noise and smells of traffic, and the inhalation of exhaust fumes. Add to that a heavy load and long working hours, and what you have is not a charming way for tourists to discover the old city, but rather subsidized animal cruelty. It is past time to put an end to this industry,” said Nicolas Gilman, executive director of the Montreal SPCA, in a news release.