The argument that horse carriages are cruel to the horses is not flying with our Wilmington City Council. Fortunately, there are many other arguments to be made. I made some of these arguments at the City Council meeting on March 20, 2018. Video available here.
For a bit of background, this issue came on the radar when, late last year, a new operator asked for permits to bring additional horse-drawn carriages to Wilmington. For decades, Wilmington has had a single carriage operator, so the whole issue of carriages was pretty much ignored. The existing operator has functioned entirely without regulations. There’s never been restrictions on temperatures, on how long the horses can work without a break, on anything. There’s never been any oversight. The entire operation was essentially “grandfathered” in as part of the operations of the city. Since no accidents have been reported, there was never an incident to draw attention to the issue.
Now the proposal to add a new operator has changed all that. The City realizes it is behind the times in terms of regulating this industry, and now it suddenly wants to get “up to par” (their words) with neighboring cities like Charleston and Savannah. Of course, to be truly forward-thinking, Wilmington could recognize this as the perfect time to get the carriage industry out of the city altogether. With only one operator, it wouldn’t be hard to begin a planned, gradual phase-out. Instead, city leaders are looking to double down and permit more operators.
To be truly forward-thinking, Wilmington could recognize this as the perfect time to get the carriage industry out of the city altogether.
If we’re going to argue against this ill-advised plan, we’ll need to offer reasons beyond cruelty. In fact, cruelty is just a distraction at this point. To be effective, we need to be strategic. Budget and traffic congestion are issues our leaders understand. Why should Wilmington use tax payer dollars to make changes to downtown (such as removing parking meters) to benefit one single industry? One city councilor I spoke to admitted that didn’t make much sense.
As much as many of us want to see horse-drawn carriages eliminated completely, now is not the time to argue for that. Right now we have just one carriage company. Compared to many other cities that allow horse carriages, that’s a good thing. Our focus should be on preventing the city from adding new carriage companies. Nothing else. Allowing more companies and more carriages will simply make this antiquated industry more entrenched than it already is, which will make them that much harder to phase out.
Our focus should be on preventing the city from adding new carriage companies.
Let’s narrow our focus. Let’s speak the city councilor’s language. Let’s show that the carriages don’t make sense budget-wise, business-wise, or traffic-wise. Now is not the time to add more carriages to Wilmington’s streets.