Charleston tweaks horse carriage heat rule animal advocacy group called "loophole"


Charleston City Council voted Monday to close what animal advocates had called a "loophole" in the city's recently revamped rules on horse carriage tour operation.

Council approved Monday an ordinance making it so that once working horses used by the city's carriage tours are pulled from the street for heat safety, the horses cannot return to work until city approved thermometers register 30 consecutive minutes of temperatures below 95 degrees, or a heat index below 110 degrees.

Tommy Doyle with Palmetto Carriage Works said Tuesday morning he is fine with council's decision to adjust the rules, because the change reflects consensus recommendations of private and independent veterinarians hired to investigate best practices for the carriage industry.

"I'm happy with it," Doyle said in a phone interview. "It's what’s best for the animals."

A city ordinance adopted in March 2017 established that horses needed to be pulled from service after four consecutive temperature readings over the period of an hour showing temperatures at or above 95 degrees / 110 heat index.

The ordinance also said horses could return to work after two consecutive temperature readings below the 95/110 threshold, but the readings only had to be 15 minutes apart, as opposed to over 30 consecutive minutes.

Charleston Animal Society officials said in August the rule as it read before Monday's vote left the door open to temperature fluctuations that could lead to horses being put back to work too quickly in extreme heat.

"We support this step in the right direction by extending the time that the horses have before returning to work when pulled due to heat, something we pointed out back in February.," Charleston Animal Society Joe Elmore said Tuesday. "The challenge for Charleston is that we still have the harshest conditions in the nation and finally, all provisions of the law need to be followed, meaning both in compliance and enforcement."

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