Advocates Gather in Downtown Charleston to Protest Carriage Tours

August 6, 2017, 2:06 am EST | Share:

CHARLESTON, SC (LINDSEY MALONEY, WTAT-TV) — The heat did not stop more than 50 people from taking to the streets of downtown Charleston Saturday.

“It’s important to know that the horses and mules are out there right now walking through the same conditions we’re going to be walking through. That’s really why we’re here, to give a voice to the voiceless,” said advocate Whit Slagsvol.

Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates battled the heat in hopes of bringing change. They say carriage tours need to go.

“It made me think about the horses that are pulling these tremendous loads out on days like this and, actually, even more extreme days,” said advocate Liz Fort.

Liz Fort and Whit Slagsvol both say “neigh” to carriage tours.

“There’s still a thermometer on the 8th story, tucked around the corner in the shade, to determine if it’s too hot on any given day. That’s just not a fair assessment of the heat conditions that the horses are facing on ground level,” Slagsvol said.

But Tommy Doyle, general manager of Palmetto Carriage Works argues the horses are monitored after every tour.

“When people say it’s too hot, sometimes it is. I agree, but the best way to know is when you take the animals body temperature, and that is the key component to our animal welfare system,” Doyle said.

Doyle says they take the temperature of horses every hour, and they’re given 30-45 minute breaks when it’s hot out.

“Our animals average about five hours a day, five days a week and 16 weeks off a year,” Doyle said.

Fort says it’s not just the heat they are worried about. “It’s very unsettling to see so much construction, large vehicles and traffic. And then, you have a carriage clopping along in front of seven cars stacked. It’s a concern,” she said.

She fears for the horses and the people on the carriages for tours.

“There are a lot of times when you see small children on the back of the carriage with their legs dangling, no safety restraints or seat belts. God forbid the horse takes off like it did in June in a full gallop through the streets. It’s very dangerous, and I feel like the time is now to make some changes,” Fort said.

“You know, animals and carriages in the city; accidents are going to happen. But, I would say that it’s safer to ride on a carriage in Charleston than to walk on the city streets,” Doyle said.

Doyle said the carriage tour companies have nothing to hide.

“Charleston has the most comprehensive animal welfare system in the country, and it’s 100 percent effective. All of our barns are open to the public, and anybody can come take a look for themselves,” Doyle said.

Fort said she wants more proof. “I just want everyone to come together and agree to a third party scientific review and let the facts speak for themselves,” Fort said.

A new rule passed back in March says carriage animals must be pulled from service on temperatures reach 95 degrees or a heat index of 110. The previous acceptable operating temperatures for horses was 98 degrees with a heat index of 125.