Dallas To Consider Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban

Horse-drawn carriage in Dallas, Texas.
Horse drawn carriage in Dallas, Texas. | Image by CaronB/Getty Images

A Dallas City Council committee has recommended banning horse-drawn carriages after discussing various safety, infrastructure, and animal welfare concerns on Monday.

The Quality of Life, Arts, and Culture (QLAC) Committee met with officials from the City’s Aviation Department to discuss the possibility of phasing out horse-drawn carriages in favor of mechanical or electric carriage options and discussed the potential ban — an idea that was floated late last year, as reported previously by The Dallas Express.

Worldwide, there has been growing momentum for such legislation in the past few years, with such efforts stateside being most evident in New York City, where several attempts to pass a horse-drawn carriage ban have failed.

In Dallas, the effort to ban the practice has found support in Council Member Adam Bazaldua, who is chair of the QLAC Committee.

“I don’t think we should have a place for horses on our streets,” Bazaldua told The Dallas Morning News in December. “I think it’s inhumane for the animal. I think it’s overall dangerous for having safer streets.”

At the April 15 meeting, Aviation Department director Patrick Carreno briefed Bazaldua and other committee members on horse-drawn carriage operations in Dallas.

Only one horse-drawn carriage company, North Star Carriage, is currently providing this service in the city, and five carriage permits have been issued to date. The company averages six to 12 rides per night, operating Thursday through Sunday. Of these rides, approximately 80% take place in Dallas, whereas the rest occur in Highland Park.

The horses, typically driving horse breeds such as Percheron, Clydesdales, and Tennessee Walkers, can work up to eight hours in a 24-hour period, per City code. Other regulations stipulate that these horses undergo medical examinations every six months and cannot work when temperatures exceed 99 degrees.

By comparison, the City of Austin bans carriage rides once temperatures rise above 95 degrees, while in New York, the cap is 90 degrees, according to Candice Bryant, City of Dallas’ transportation regulation manager.

There are also unlicensed carriage operations in the city limits hired for weddings, funerals, birthdays, and other special occasions.

“These events are difficult to enforce due to staffing levels, but also because when they occur, they are random,” Carreno noted. “Typically, we wouldn’t have an inspector out catching these operations.”

Carriage rides on concrete can lead to joint stress and discomfort for the horses over time. But Carreno shared that people often found them to be a source of nostalgia, entertainment, and equine education.

“The purpose of this is to get feedback and guidance, and once we receive that, we can look at possible ordinances and amendments followed up with a briefing to the committee if needed before action from the City Council,” Carreno said.

He later noted that his research had not yielded any reports of incidents or accidents involving horse-drawn carriages, to which Bazaldua voiced strong opposition, citing his own research into the matter.

“I do not like that y’all have said there aren’t any incidents … I’m not even the expert, and I’m not the one that’s in a department issuing these types of permits,” he said. “So if my own research can result in something different than what y’all presented here, there’s a problem.”

Bazaldua then shared an instance from 2019 in Highland Park, where a driver reported that he was attempting to get between two parked cars when a horse carriage carrying up to 10 people attempted to do the same, leading to a head-on collision.

He also shared another incident from Highland Park in which two people were thrown out of a carriage after the horse pulling it was startled.

“All of these incidents wouldn’t have occurred if it was a human driver and an electric carriage,” he noted.

“To what extent does an incident need to happen for us to take action? Are we going to be prudent and proactive as a city? Are we going to modernize and continue our investment so that we are truly aligned in a goal to make our streets safer? Are we going to allow for nostalgia to break logic?”

He went on to suggest investigating more what a transition to electric carriages would entail in Dallas while providing actionable items for the public to weigh in on.

A motion passed 5-1 for recommending a ban on horse-drawn carriages to the City Council, with Council Member Paul Ridley dissenting.

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