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SALT LAKE CITY — The issue of a carriage horse that fell to the ground over the weekend has sparked a growing controversy.
There are calls coming from different sides for a city-wide ban on the businesses.
It's not uncommon to see one of the horse-drawn carriages heading along a downtown street. But since Jerry the horse collapsed while pulling a carriage full of people in Salt Lake City, a number of activist groups are taking issue. The city is even taking a look at further regulation after the horse collapsed.
"I mean, it was upsetting to me too," said activist Jeremy Beckham. "I certainly wasn't happy."
Beckham, a spokesman for PETA, took the pictures that have built into a firestorm. They show Jerry the horse — owned by Carriage for Hire — ill and on the ground.
"We should be asking ourselves, why is a horse on State Street to begin with?" said Beckham. "We need to go a couple steps before that point."
Though its owners have claimed Jerry fell victim to colic, PETA activists say this is an example why horse-drawn carriages should not be allowed. The Humane Society of Utah joined the fight on Tuesday.
"For us to turn a blind eye to this, we can't do that," said Humane Society spokesman Carl Arky.
The group is also calling for an all-out ban.
"At what cost?" Arky said. "That's the question that we're asking. At what cost do we want to continue to see things like this happen?"
Activists point to a growing number of cities that have bans in place. A handful in Florida, as well as Vegas and Reno have taken that action. It's even become a mayoral race issue in New York.
In Salt Lake City, council members and the mayor's office are in agreement — a review of city code is needed. It allows these businesses to operate up to a heat index of 150 degrees.
"I think temperature, not only hot temperatures but also cold temperatures as well," said Salt Lake City councilman Charlie Luke. "We live in a very extreme climate."
I think the question always comes back to whether animals should be used for this purpose.
–Carl Arky, Humane Society of Utah
Nobody at the city level is committing yet to a ban — or even a change in the rules. For now, they're focusing on fact finding.
"We're moving quickly on this," said Luke.
KSL's own search of records found another incident involving Carriage for Hire in 2009 when a horse got spooked, took off and ran into a parked car. The family on board was not injured.
Salt Lake County Animal Services tells KSL, though, the company is clean — free of any violations. It's been in operation since 1987.
"I think the question always comes back to whether animals should be used for this purpose," said Arky.
KSL reached out to Carriage for Hire, but did not receive a response. However, a worker wanted to pass along that Jerry the horse is improving and the company is complying with all regulations.