Last summer for
Despite the impending calèche ban the horses still need us
By Mirella Colalillo
Montrealers are counting the days. In six months on December 31, 2019, the long-awaited calèche ban will take effect.
This result was reached after 30 years of activism starting in the 90s with the activists of the group Anti-calèche Action who scored many wins despite the fact that the exploitation of horses was not considered an issue back then. Yet, they managed to obtain a reduction of the working temperature limit for calèche horses from 34°C to 30°C.
In 2010 they passed the torch to the Anti-calèche Defense Coalition who have created an engaged community that has tirelessly documented and exposed the conditions of the calèche horses.
Authorities have been kept on their toes as photos and videos of daily infractions and horse abuse have gone viral on social media, while email campaigns and complaints to the City and to MAPAQ have been relentless.
As a result, the calèche by-laws underwent an overhaul in 2017 during the Coderre administration to improve the working conditions of the horses, but in reality, they weren’t enforced. This was confirmed in November 2018 when the horse Zeus died an agonizing death on the streets of Old Montreal.
Exposing the reality of the calèche horses has sensitized many residents and city administrators who have concluded that nowadays with all the means we have available for transportation it’s no longer acceptable to exploit horses to pull carriages.
This has been a fight against a vicious cycle of neglect. Since 2011 in Montreal over 15 horses have died of abuse, improper handling, absence of proper veterinary care, and lack of enforcement of the by-laws. The last remaining stable is sub-standard and to this day fails to comply with each point of the by-law listed in Section I, 60-70.
Since 2011 in Montreal over 15 horses have died of abuse, improper handling, absence of proper veterinary care, and lack of enforcement of the by-laws.
The Montreal calèche ban could have come sooner, sparing dozens of horses from a horrible fate. In 2007 the number of permits was reduced to 24 and it eas expected that there would probably soon be no permits left, considering that after three infractions the permits are permanently revoked. However many infractions have been documented, but no fines emitted.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the calèches are seen as out-dated relics of a time where animals were once commodities. The current city administration lead by Mayor Plante voted unanimously for a calèche ban in August 2018 and has offered to buy back the horses at $1000 each. The city will work with local sanctuaries and organizations to place the horses into safe and permanent homes. This plan would save them from slaughter should the owners decide to dispose of them.
The City has also offered to help the carriage drivers transition to new careers. While some claim they’ll take their horses to work elsewhere, others may get on with the times.
However, many are concerned the horses will be overworked this last summer due to the upcoming ban. But together we can ensure that the bylaws are being enforced:
- Horses are not allowed to work when the temperature is over 28°C or after 6 pm
- Horses must not show signs of illness, injury or distress, nor be whipped
- Ten minutes of rest between rides is mandatory
- Only one person is allowed per seat
- No passengers are allowed on the driver’s seat
- No calèche driver may leave the calèche unattended
- License plate at the back of the calèche must be legible and visible
‘… many are concerned the horses will be overworked this last summer due to the upcoming ban. But together we can ensure that the bylaws are being enforced.’
If an individual observes that any of these points are not being respected, they are encouraged to document the infraction with a time-stamped photo or video, take note of the calèche plate number and immediately call 311. If a horse needs veterinary care, you can contact the SPCA and file a complaint with MAPAQ who will send an inspector to evaluate the horse and take the necessary measures.
As the curtains fall on the last calèches in Montréal, in my heart lives the memory of the many gentle giants I’ve come to know throughout the years and whose eyes begged for love and compassion. May we continue to evolve as a society where we extend our hands and hearts to all sentient beings, creating a more enlightened planet.
Read also: other articles on animal welfare
Mirella Colalillo is an advocate for the rights of human and non-human animals. She’s lead the Anti-calèche Defense Coalition grassroots community for eight years and she promotes ethical and sustainable travelling in her homeland Italy via her Italian culture blog Parlatè.