Read the original article by Kim Bell at stltoday.com here.
Horse-drawn carriage companies say they won’t follow a new St. Louis rule that governs when the horses can work on hot days because it could put them out of business.
The latest regulation, adopted last week, says that the horses can’t work for 24 hours if the National Weather Service has forecast St. Louis will reach 93 degrees or above that day.
Before the change, the city said horses could work once the temperature dropped to 92. Now, the forecast of 93 or above triggers the 24-hour waiting period, which runs from 7 a.m. on the day of the forecast to 7 a.m. the next day.
The owners of Claddagh Carriage Co., the smallest of St. Louis’ horse-drawn carriage businesses, say those new rules are so restrictive that the company would be forced to close if it followed them. So Claddagh and the three other companies that run carriage businesses in St. Louis have agreed to buck the new rule and put horses to work once the heat drops below 93.
Waiting the full 24 hours, Claddagh’s owners say, would mean that much of the summer tourist season would be blacked out to them.
Shannon Nickless, co-owner of Claddagh, estimated the company would lose out on at least 30 to 40 tourist days during a hot summer. Nickless said carriage drivers wouldn’t make enough money if the company followed the new guidelines. They would quit, and the business would go belly up.
“We will not comply,” Nickless said.
Nickless said the company was blindsided by the new rule, which was adopted by the city’s Board of Public Service on July 10. The companies learned about the change the next day when the city’s health director emailed them.
All four companies have agreed to join forces to fight the new regulation the moment one of the companies is ticketed for a violation, Nickless said. The four companies combined have about 40 horses.
The temperature was projected to rise above 93 on Monday, and the rule was in effect. Despite the plan to defy the rule, Nickless decided to keep his horses in all day because Monday is a low-business day.
Several cooler days are coming. Highs should be below 93 for the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service.
‘A good compromise’
Jeanine Arrighi, the city’s acting health commissioner and director of health, said the city is only concerned about the well-being of horses.
Arrighi said each morning her office checks with the National Weather Service at 7 a.m. If the temperature is going to reach or exceed 93 during the day, the city asks the carriage horse companies not to work for 24 hours.
If the companies work anyway, Arrighi said the city’s animal control officer or another employee will document the violation with video or photograph and turn the information over to the Board of Public Service once a month. The board issues the certificates that allow the horse companies to operate in the city.
“They have 180 days to come into compliance to obtain that certificate,” Arrighi said.
Arrighi said the city researched carriage horse regulations in 20 other cities in the United States and around the world. Arrighi said some won’t let them work at 96 degrees. The average temperature regulation, she said, was 91.
“So we think (93) is a good compromise,” she said.
Arrighi said horses could experience heat stress, and any changes to the regulations have been a result of “observations of horses in stress.”
Gina LaFrieda, office manager and carriage driver for St. Louis Carriage Co., has driven horse carriages 12 years for two companies.
“We’ve worked with these horses for years, we know what they can handle, our vets know what they can handle. The new rule is ridiculous,” LaFrieda said. “If we followed the letter of the law, that pretty much means our horses don’t work all summer unless we have a freak weather day.”
LaFrieda said that would make it hard to maintain the business.
LaFrieda said the horses are 2,000-pound working animals. “They have to work,” she said. “Their muscles will atrophy if they don’t get to work. They like the exercise. They like the people interaction.”
LaFrieda said she has been sending horses onto the street to work as long as the temperature is below 93 and the heat index is under 100.
She said the company keeps 5-gallon water buckets on the carriages for the horses to drink and keep cool. They also patrol in a truck with a 200-gallon water tank to hose down horses and to refill water buckets.
“We’re trying to do the best by our horses,” she said.