Dallas Considers Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban

Dallas carriage ride
Carriage ride | Image by Save Dallas Horse Carriages/Facebook

As the chatter surrounding the fate of horse-drawn carriages echoes through the streets of Dallas, the city council finds itself at a crossroads between tradition and animal welfare.

In April, a Dallas City Council committee formally proposed prohibiting horse-drawn carriages, reported KERA News. In place of the carriages, the committee advocated for transitioning to mechanical or electric alternatives, citing concerns for the welfare of the horses, public safety, and road conditions.

“Are we going to be prudent and proactive as a city?” said Council Member Adam Bazaldua (District 7) who chairs the committee, per KERA. “Are we going to modernize and continue our investment so we are truly aligned in a goal to make our streets safer? Or are we going to allow for nostalgia to break logic?”

Council Member Gay Donnell Willis (District 13) agreed with Bazaldua.

“If you’re talking about a vehicle that has some kind of shock absorption, that has a rubber tire that is more malleable to go through some of these uneven surfaces versus a hoof and a foreleg,” said Willis, per KERA. “It’s just sounding like that is a way to keep the benefits that have been outlined — you know, all of the charm and the things that people like and all of that — but take out an element that can’t really respond as well to our own road conditions.”

Not everyone agreed, however. Paul Ridley (District 14) preferred to see more regulations to protect the horses rather than remove the novel experience.

“If we’re to replace the horses with people as drivers, that’s not the safest alternative either, given our record of fatalities from motor vehicle collisions, given our record of DWIs,” Ridley said, per KERA. “At least we don’t have to worry about the horses imbibing.”

North Star Carriage is the sole permitted operator of horse-drawn carriages in Dallas, with five carriage permits, reported The Dallas Morning News. The company averages between six and 12 rides per night, Thursday through Saturday, earning between $900 and $1,080 nightly, reported KERA.

While the proposal aims to address legitimate concerns, particularly regarding the well-being of the horses, it raises questions about the potential impact on small businesses that rely on this practice and consider it a tradition. The discussion surrounding the future of horse-drawn carriages in the city has sparked debate among Texas residents and policymakers alike.

“They’re right next to a 28,000-pound DART bus and cars that are driving extremely fast, loud music. Horses are timid animals that spook easily. And being out there in three-digit weather, it’s just crazy to me,” Gloria Carbajal from Ban Horse Carriages Dallas told the Dallas Observer.

Equine expert Kayce Ingram told The Dallas Express that the issue is not as clear-cut or one-sided as it may seem from an outsider’s perspective.

“There is an inherent danger posed to horse-drawn carriages as they have the potential to be subjected to long hours of work in dangerous conditions … [Yet] with proper regulations of carriage operations, where the horses are provided ample rest, food, and veterinary oversight, these horses can live happy healthy lives,” said Ingram. “Like with almost any industry, there are good and bad people involved with it.”

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