City set to invoke new regulations on calèche trade
Owners fear rules will further hinder industry where profits are already meagre
The city of Montreal intends to regulate its controversial calèche industry with a set of rules aimed at ensuring the welfare of the horses, Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday.
“The status quo was unacceptable,” Coderre told a weekly meeting of the city’s executive committee. “It’s very, very clear that before anything else, the health of the animal, of the horse, is what’s important.”
Coderre said his administration will table a bylaw in city council to regulate how calèche horses are used and cared for.
Calèche drivers and owners waiting for passengers — who were few and far between Wednesday afternoon outside the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal — said while they agreed with some measures, like micro-chipping horses and regular veterinary checks, most were unnecessary restrictions that would hinder an industry where profits are already meagre. Most contentious was the decision to lower the maximum temperature at which horses can work to 28 C.
“It’s crazy how they’re going to lower the temperature to 28 C. It used to be 32 C, and we never had a horse go down in the street,” said Gary Dowse, who has been driving calèches since 1975. “Construction workers stay out till 40 C.”
“The frustrating thing for us is we’re controlled by people who don’t know anything about horses. That’s our problem. If they lower it to 28 it means we have to leave at 27, which means we won’t work all summer, almost.
As for the proposed dress code, Dowse said the polyester uniforms are uncomfortable in the heat and ugly. The history courses they had to take were inaccurate, he said.
Another driver who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from the city said he bought his horse, cart and permit six years ago for $71,000, but now feared he would have trouble making a proper living.
“I have to make $17,000 (to cover expenses like feed and boarding) before I get to put any money in my pocket,” he said. The new restrictions looked like a veiled attempt to drive calèche drivers out of business, he said.
The city would be better off adding improvements, like drinking stalls and shaded areas for the horses and a barn that had been promised by the city but has not materialized.
He added that as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, he had had only one customer since 10:30 a.m. and Dowse had had none.
Among the proposed regulations:
Calèche owners must have the health of their horses certified by a veterinarian twice annually.
Horses must be microchipped to allow the extent and duration of their activities to be monitored.
Horses cannot be worked for more than nine hours, including the travelling time to and from their stables, with obligatory 10-minute breaks between trips.
Horses cannot be worked when the temperature reaches 28 C, and each calèche stand will be equipped with a thermometer that will issue a visual alert when that maximum temperature is imminent.
Calèches will be regularly inspected by city officials to ensure their proper maintenance.
No one convicted of violating animal cruelty regulations will be permitted a calèche licence unless the application is made five years after the offence.
Calèche drivers will have a dress code. Also, drivers expecting a permit must have, within the past five years, successfully completed a training course on the city’s tourist attractions, customer service and the regulations of their profession in order to receive their operating permit. They will also be obliged to report any incident involving their calèche or horse.
Temperature in stables cannot exceed 28 C in summer. In winter, temperature must range between 5 to 7 degrees C.
The proposed regulations follow a clash last year between Coderre and the local calèche industry sparked by several highly publicized accidents involving calèche horses. The mayor called for a year-long ban on calèches in order to table new regulations for the industry, but a week later a court challenge quashed the moratorium.
Coderre said Wednesday he intends for the regulations to become law by this August.
“It’s very, very clear that before anything else, the health of the animal, of the horse, is what’s important,” Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday at a meeting of the city’s executive committee.