Quebec City caleche accidents spark outrage
Published Sunday, May 21, 2017 12:06AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, May 21, 2017 6:40PM EDT
Two separate accidents involving horse-drawn carriages occurred in Quebec City Saturday afternoon, near the Chateau Frontenac.
The first accident involved a caleche driver who lost control of his horse near the U.S. Consulate and the Chateau Frontenac.
The horse struck a sidewalk and ended up going down a grassy hill. The carriage was overturned, and the driver of the carriage sent to hospital with minor injuries to his legs.
Police say the horse did not suffer any injuries.
At around 4:30 p.m., just in front of the Chateau Frontenac near Saint-Louis St., another caleche horse stumbled and hit a sidewalk. It then slipped and fell to the ground-- the horse wasn’t able to get back on its feet on its own, and a team of people tried unsuccessfully to help it up.
It remained on the ground for several hours.
A police spokesperson says a veterinarian eventually used medication and the horse was eventually able to stand upright. However, a witness on social media wrote that the horse seemed disoriented and did not want to be placed in its trailer.
Both horses have reportedly been given Sunday off to recover.
According to the SPCA, this is another example of why caleches should be banned. It receives hundreds of complaints about caleches every year and expects this summer to be even worse for the horses because of Montreal's 375th celebrations.
"We know horses are prone to spooking with loud noises, lots of movement, lots of action," said SPCA spokesperson Alanna Devine. "So unfortunately with these festivities, we'll see incidents but likely more than usual."
The caleche industry has been a longstanding source of controversy in Montreal.
Putting Montrealers through their paces
Last May, Mayor Denis Coderre tried to ban caleches for one year. The moratorium was eventually struck down by a Quebec Superior Court judge, who ruled the city had overstepped its powers.
In December, the city announced Montreal’s caleche industry would get a $500,000 boost as part of a plan to regulate and improve the industry and its services.
However anti-caleche activists say very little has changed.
“We’ve seen caleche drivers making the same mistakes so we're wondering what that training that the Mayor announced in December was for?” said Mirella Calalillo, spokesperson for the Anti-Caleche Defense Coalition.
The owner of Lucky Luc stables in Griffintown stresses that it's hard to tell exactly what happened in Quebec City. He says the driver shouldn't be blamed right away.
"It could have been anything," said Luc Desparios. "I can't even say. It could have been a piece of the harness that's not properly put on, something happened to bug or spook the horse. We never know."
In statement via Facebook, the Montreal SPCA urged Quebec City and Montreal to join the list of other "world-class" cities that have banned horse-drawn carriages, such as London, Paris, Bejing, and Toronto.
"It's time to follow suit by phasing out this antiquated, inhumane, and unsafe industry," said Anita Kapucinska, spokesperson for the SPCA Montreal.
Every year, the SPCA says they receive hundreds of complaints made by citizens about working conditions and the general state of carriage horses in Montreal.
Last summer, a local caleche driver named Jacques Prud'homme introduced an interesting alternative to the traditional horse-drawn carriage: an electric, horseless one that he modified himself using a small motor.
However, Prud'homme was ordered off the road by city officials after complaints were lodged by other caleche drivers. A spokesperson from the city said that Prud'Homme's permit applied to horse-operated carriages only, not a small motor vehicle.
Other drivers said they thought the invention-- touted by animal activists as a "cruelty-free" alternative-- was bad for business.
"Only two of the people said it was a good idea, and better for the horse," Prud'homme said in a Facebook post at the time.
The SPCA is also wary of the potential horse-related incidents that may arise during the festivities for Montreal's 375th anniversary.
Horses, known to be highly-sensitive and impressionable animals, startle easily. With increased traffic, loud noises, fireworks and outdoor concerts, there is a much higher possibility that the horses will buck and cause injury to passengers.
"Can we just pull the plug on this dying industry already, instead of investing half a million taxpayer dollars to try and keep it alive?" said Sophie Gaillard, lawyer for the animal advocacy department of the SPCA.
Local advocates will decidedly continue to rally for the abolishment of the caleche industry. Association Terriens, a non-profit organization in Montreal, will be holding a silent vigil and protest against the caleche industry on May 27 at Place Jacques-Cartier.