SALT LAKE CITY — Residents concerned about carriages operating downtown again called on the City Council to get the horses off the streets.
But if the council isn't willing to ban carriages completely, many said they hope the city will adopt an ordinance proposed by City Council Chairman Charlie Luke recommending the companies and their horses be more closely regulated, requiring regular breaks for the animals, not allowing them to work in inclement weather and establishing a new route for them.
So far, restrictions for working conditions don't factor in air quality.
At the request of Councilman Luke Garrott, the proposal the City Council will eventually consider will include an option to remove carriage horses from Salt Lake City streets altogether.
The City Council heard more than a dozen emotional complaints during a public hearing Tuesday at the Salt Lake City-County Building. Residents cited traffic snarls caused by carriages traversing downtown and made pleas on behalf of the animals that pull them.
Opposition to the downtown carriages that circle Temple Square made headlines in Utah and across the country in August when a horse named Jerry collapsed in his harness on a city street and later died.
Several who spoke at Tuesday's hearing, including a representative from the Humane Society of Utah, asked the council to follow New York City's example as that city's new mayor begins his campaign to ban carriage horses.
"These horses are allowed to work in extreme heat and extreme cold, and there's ice on the ground and they're slipping," said Amy Meyer, who grew up around horses and spends weekends volunteering at a local animal rescue. "People, including myself, see a huge problem with this, and I think we should be moving how New York is currently moving. … There's no reason Salt Lake City can't do the same."
Like many others, Meyer said she supports Luke's proposal if a ban fails.
Equine veterinarian Kimberly Henneman said she hopes the council can find a middle ground on the issue, emphasizing that she agrees the animals should not be allowed to work in extreme conditions.
"I think the city is large enough, I think it's a nice enough thing for people, and it gives the horses a job at a time right now when we have horses being abandoned," Henneman said. "These horses are being well cared for, they have a job and they have work, and that's something horses do fine with if properly cared for. I think there's no reason a compromise can't be found."
Luke lobbied for a new carriage route during a City Council work session earlier Tuesday that would still include a popular view of Temple Square from North Temple but not South Temple — a one-lane street that is also a route for TRAX trains headed to and from City Creek Center.
Council members agreed in a unanimous straw poll to switch carriage horse permits to a contract rather than a certificate model, giving the city more options for enforcement, and to merge in suggestions from city and county officials for consideration.
The public hearing about the carriage horses was extended as the council continues to debate the proposed changes. It could be several weeks before the council is prepared to address the issue again, Luke said.