Montreal's caleches banned for one year
Montrealers and tourists will not be seeing any horse-drawn carriages in the Old Port this summer as Mayor Denis Coderre announced a one-year moratorium on the city’s caleche industry.
Coderre said the ban will last until next spring and will give the city time to professionalize the industry and establish a committee that will ensure optimal conditions for the horses are being met.
The moratorium goes into effect on Tuesday.
Operators will be reimbursed for the cost of their permits for the year, which cost $550 for the carriages themselves and $120 for the drivers’ permits.
“The horses are part of the identity of our city,” said Coderre. “We have to protect the horses and make sure they’re treated like they should be. I wasn’t at all satisfied with how things were working. The best thing is to start from zero and give all the tools necessary to make sure it’s a source of pride and not a source of shame.”
The caleche industry has come under fire in recent years. The SPCA says caleche horses are often forced to work nine hours per day, seven days per weeks, even in extreme heat.
Calls for a ban on the carriages have gone on for years. Last summer, a photo circulated of a fallen horse in Old Montreal, prompting Coderre to call for a report into the health of caleche horses. The report concluded the horses have never been healthier.
The controversy was reignited in April, when video was captured of a car colliding with a horse in the Old Port. The caleche driver was nowhere to be found.
“There are two priorities, to make sure that there's safety – safety for the people and safety for the horses,” he said.
Coderre said caleches should be a source of pride and not shame for the city.
Critics call it a good start, but want more.
“This is a positive step, but for us, what we've been asking for years is a phase out and what we hope to see after this year is continuation of the prohibition on carriage horses,” said Montreal SPCA director of animal advocacy Alanna Devine.
Caleche drivers say they hope this is not the end for the business.
“I invested a lot of money in this business,” said Moise Cohen, who said he invested $71,000 to buy a caleche permit second hand, and it's costs $16,000 per year to care for his horse.
“And now I'm out of a job,” he said.
Many caleche drivers will end up on welfare, said one driver, adding that the owners won't have money to send the horses to the country – and that some will end up in the butcher shop.
The SPCA said it plans to work with caleche owners to ensure that doesn't happen, and help them find places for out-of-work horses.