The City Council this morning approved new rules governing the business of horse-drawn carriages in Portland,
about a year and a half after a horse died downtown
while pulling a newlywed couple in a carriage near Central Library. Temperatures that day were in the 90s.
And while the proposed regulations
[PDF] are extensive—prohibiting everything from the licensure of carriage drivers with recent felony convictions to the operation of carriages on days with temperatures topping 90 degrees—there's at least one rule Portland decided against adopting. There's no minimum temperature below which horses can't be on approved city streets
"While a minimum was discussed as part of the original draft proposal, the opinion of equine specialists was that temperatures in Portland are generally not low enough to require cessation of carriage horse rides," writes Kathleen Butler, a manager with the city's regulatory division overseeing for-hire transportation, in an email. "[I]n the case of unusually low temperatures, it is also unlikely that there would be any demand for a carriage ride."
Horse-drawn carriage rides are not unheard of in winter. They're available to Christmas-light enthusiasts visiting Peacock Lane every December. But Dr. Jennifer Saunders, a veterinarian with Willamette Valley Equine Surgical and Medical Center, says the city's rules make sense. Horses can work in below-freezing temperatures as long as they're blanketed when they're not working. (A horse that sweats from working can catch a chill if standing still.)
"I think the maximum temperature is more important," Saunders say. "It just doesn't get that cold here."
Ice on the roads and heavy winter rain would cause Saunders more concern. But the city regulations address that. "No horse-drawn carriage may operate in the presence of weather conditions that make horse-drawn carriage travel unsafe," the rules say.
One final note: Portland's regulations fall short of what PETA wanted. The animal-rights group called for an outright ban.