While scores of Montrealers are opting to avoid the outdoors as a cold snap persists, some caleche operators are continuing to offer rides in the sub-zero climate.

And despite protests from animal advocates, who consider wintertime caleches "inhumane" and "unsafe," caleche drivers can, by law, operate outdoors until temperatures dip below -20 Celsius.

On Saturday, when drivers were spotted making their rounds in the Old Port, temperatures hovered at -19 degrees -- with the wind chill, it felt like -26.

After days of cold temperatures, caleche operators no doubt want to make up for lost income. However, critics are vocal about the bylaw that protects the drivers.

Alanna Devine of the Montreal SPCA, for one, believes that -18 is still far too cold to expect horses to work.

"Horses are most comfortable at about zero degrees," Devine explained. "If it's any colder, they need to have blankets. They need to have special measures taken."

Devine also believes that the physical exertion for the horses, who are often pulling heavy loads, is only worsened with the strain of the cold.

"To have these horses -- many of who are old and have injuries or special medical issues -- dragging a thousand-plus pounds though traffic when it's -30 plus windchill is inhumane. It's also unsafe," she said. 

Mayor Valerie Plante's administration campaigned for an end to the caleche industry, and the SPCA is hopeful that City Hall will announce a gradual phasing out of the industry sometime early in the new year.