Al­der­man wants to nar­row tem­per­a­ture range for horse- drawn car­riages

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter Email: fspiel­man@ sun­times. com Twit­ter: @ fspiel­man

Chicago’s roughly two dozen horse- drawn car­riages would be pro­hib­ited from op­er­at­ing when­ever the tem­per­a­ture rises to 80 de­grees or drops to 20 de­grees, un­der a change cham­pi­oned by a down­town al­der­man to ap­pease an­i­mal- wel­fare ad­vo­cates.

Four years ago, Ald. Bren­dan Reilly ( 42nd) mus­cled through a re­quire­ment that car­riages promi­nently dis­play de­cals declar­ing tem­per­a­tures un­der which horses can legally op­er­ate.

Now, he wants to nar­row that tem­per­a­ture range — from a 90- de­gree high and a 15- de­gree low or a wind- chill fac­tor of zero to an 80- de­gree high, a 20- de­gree low or a wind- chill fac­tor of 5 de­grees.

“We want to pro­tect these horses. Hav­ing them work­ing in ex­treme tem­per­a­tures seems in­hu­mane,” Reilly said.

“These horses are al­ready be­ing worked much longer hours than they should be. But one way to limit this is to put greater re­stric­tions on the tem­per­a­tures. I’ve been hear­ing from an­i­mal- wel­fare ac­tivists . . . rais­ing their con­cerns. The ac­tivists were hop­ing for a 75- de­gree max­i­mum. I de­cided that a fair com­pro­mise would be 80 de­grees.”

Horse- drawn car­riages are wildly pop­u­lar with tourists and a favorite with stu­dents who use them as a ro­man­tic in­ter­lude when they come down­town to cel­e­brate high school proms.

Reilly ac­knowl­edged that horse­drawn car­riages are a “re­ally charm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence” for tourists. But he said, “I have a hard- time un­der­stand­ing how car­riage horses can co- min­gle with traf­fic and the ex­haust fumes and buses and all of that.”

In 2011, horse- drawn car­riage own­ers raised a stink — and pre­dicted a rash of Gold Coast ac­ci­dents and traf­fic jams — over a Reilly- cham­pi­oned reg­u­la­tion that forced driv­ers to stop and wash the street when­ever a horse uri­nates.

At the time, car­riage horses were al­ready re­quired to wear di­a­pers, a leg­isla­tive le­gacy of for­mer down­town Ald. Bur­ton F. Natarus ( 42nd).

But Reilly pres­sured City Hall to crack down on some­thing horse di­a­pers can’t catch: urine he claimed was leav­ing a lin­ger­ing stench that im­pacted the qual­ity of life for Gold Coast res­i­dents.

When car­riage own­ers com­plained, Reilly sug­gested that car- riages be banned from city streets al­to­gether and con­fined to Chicago parks.

On Thurs­day, the down­town al­der­man res­ur­rected that pos­si­bil­ity. He called the tem­per­a­ture change a “good first step.”

“When we talked years ago about the idea of ban­ning these car­riages from the streets, there was a tremen­dous amount of push­back from the horse car­riage in­dus­try and their sup­port­ers and even some of the tourism pro­mot­ers,” Reilly said.

“My per­sonal pref­er­ence would be for horses to op­er­ate in parks the way they do in New York. That won’t be con­sid­ered this year. But I’m open to that idea in the fu­ture.”

Six months af­ter Reilly cham­pi­oned the tem­per­a­ture de­cals, Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved to re­quire horse- drawn car­riages to pay higher li­cens­ing fees and jump through the same reg­u­la­tory hoops as cab­drivers, in­clud­ing a test of ge­og­ra­phy.

That did not sit well with re­tired driver Dave Saun­ders, vol­un­teer man­ager for the Illi­nois Horse Park Foun­da­tion that man­ages His­tor­i­cal Noble Horse, 1410 N. Or­leans.

Saun­ders noted then that car­riages work “on a very lim­ited ba­sis” — es­sen­tially from the Chicago River to Fuller­ton and from Lake Michi­gan to Hal­sted.

“If they start giv­ing us a test of ge­og­ra­phy, do we need to know where the Mu­seum of Sci­ence and In­dus­try is where we never go, or how to get to Foster and Lake Shore Drive?” Saun­ders said then.

“Cab­drivers go 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is a very sea­sonal busi­ness. Most of the driv­ers are stu­dents or teach­ers. It’s a part­time po­si­tion. They’re go­ing over the edge in try­ing to regulate a busi­ness that doesn’t need reg­u­la­tion.”

At the time, Reilly was equally sur­prised by the ge­og­ra­phy test “given that the area where these car­riages op­er­ate is rather small.”


Ald. Bren­dan Reilly says an 80- de­gree max­i­mum tem­per­a­ture for horse car­riages is a “fair com­pro­mise.” | RICH

Chicago has roughly two dozen horse- drawn car­riages. | SUN- TIMES LI­BRARY

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