The Chicago carriage horse trade will end at the start of 2021.
The City Council voted 46-4 to decline new and renewal operating licenses, effectively banning the businesses.
Chicago joins a handful of cities that have banned horse-drawn carriages including Salt Lake City, Utah; Biloxi, Miss.; Camden, N.J.; Key West, Fla.; Palm Beach, Fla.; and Treasure Island, Fla. New York City, N.Y., carriage horse operators have faced pressure from animal rights activists and political figures such as Mayor Bill de Blasio. Like New York, Chicago operators faced increased scrutiny from the same camps.
“It has been coming for a while,” Alan Dryg, a Crete, Ill., farrier who shod carriages for several years told American Farriers Journal. “In the end, the animal rights people had more diligence and reserves to continue the fight. Carriage companies simply don’t make enough money to have the legal reserves to defend against this.”
Chicago Alderman Brendan Reilly told the Chicago Sun-Times that the ban was the result of concerns that some had with how the animals were treated, while others took issue with traffic-related problems and public safety.
“For me, it’s a combination of both,” he says. “I grew up surrounded by farms and horses. They’re bred to work. But they were not bred to be sucking gas fumes from the back of CTA buses and co-mingling with cement mixers. That’s not humane treatment of animals.”
The Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association (ISVMA) took issue with claims that the horses are mistreated.
“These animals are very well taken care of,” ISVMA President Olivia Rudolphi says, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Them pulling the carriage is like you pulling a wagon for your kid.”
In fact, the industry has not been charged with abuse, says Larry Ortega, owner of Chicago Horse and Carriage.
“Even though there are city, state and federal laws clearly stating what is animal cruelty,” he says, “there has never been one horse driver or owner arrested operating on the city streets of Chicago.”
Chicago Alderman Brian Hopkins believes that the city has been “fortunate” that it has not had collisions that have occurred in other cities.
“When you take a large, slow-moving object and put it downtown on Michigan Avenue, Chicago Avenue or inner Lake Shore Drive during peak traffic periods, you’re clearly taking a risk,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.
It’s a point that Ortega says is being enforced on carriage operators but not other forms of transportation such as the city’s electric scooters, which has led to more than 300 hospital visits. Over the course of 40 years, carriages “can’t even touch that number,” he says.
“In reality,” Ortega says, “statistics show that we are the safest form of transportation or ride service in Chicago.”