Montreal is introducing new regulations for the city's famed caleches.

Traditional horse-drawn carriages in Old Montreal have been controversial as some animal welfare groups have called for a complete ban, saying it is dangerous for the horses.

Mayor Denis Coderre placed a one-year moratorium on the tourist attraction last year, then backtracked after caleche drivers won an injunction in court.

Coderre decided instead to toss the moratorium plans and invest $500,000 to improve services and regulate the industry.

"I think the horse is part of our history, part of our heritage, and we have to make sure that we protect, first and foremost, the horses," Coderre said Wednesday.

"I've said what I said since the beginning: I think we have to reinvent the industry."

The new bylaw will include the following regulations:

  • Drivers will be trained in customer service, tourism, and caleche regulations
  • Drivers will be required to follow a dress code
  • Drivers must report any accidents or incidents involving the horses
  • Horses must certified as healthy every six months by a veterinarian
  • Horses cannot be placed in a harness for more than nine hours a day (this includes travel time to and from the stables)
  • Horses must have a 10-minute break after every ride
  • No caleches on hot days; horses will not be on the road once the temperature hits 28C
  • Horses will be microchipped to track their work

Caleche drivers said some of the new rules are excessive, given horses already must stop working when the temperature reaches 30 C at Trudeau airport.

"They're going to stop us from working about 50 percent of our working days," said 'Lucky' Luc Desparois.

The man who runs the stables in Griffintown said his horses are well cared for and can handle the heat. 

"It's harder for us than it is for the animal," said Desparois.

Police Chief Philippe Pichet said that two officers who patrol Old Montreal on foot will be responsible for enforcement of the bylaw.

The regulations come after a series of events sparked outrage, including a horse hit by a car in Griffintown, and two recent incidents involving caleches in Quebec City.

A petition to ban caleches in the capital garnered more than 36,000 signatures following the incidents.

The Montreal SPCA has long called for a complete ban on caleches.

“We’re disappointed. We continue to stand in firm opposition of this industry in the downtown area of Montreal. For us, the bylaw doesn’t address the inherent issues of having horses in a congested, traffic filled, concrete-based environment in a downtown core, which subjects them and citizens to potential incidents and has inherent welfare issues,” said Alanna Devine, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA.

The Montreal bylaw will be tabled at city hall Monday and is expected to be adopted in August.

In the long term, Coderre said the city would consider building new stables for the horses.