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Advocates try to put heat on carriage companies over temperature, other hot topics

WCIV

More than 50 people took the streets in downtown Charleston Saturday to advocate for the horses. They say horse carriage tours need to go.

It was a peaceful march. People didn't yell. They just walked silently, carrying signs and a thermometer. Temperatures reached high 80s but it was humid and with the heat index it felt like mid 90s.

Members of Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates say it's not safe, but carriage companies beg to differ.

"It's important to know that the horses and mules are out there right now walking through the same conditions we're going to be walking through. That's really why we're here, to give a voice to the voiceless," said advocate Whit Slagsvol.

CCHA members hope battling the heat will bring what they consider to be cooler, new change.

“It made me think about the horses that are pulling these tremendous loads out on days like this and even more extreme days," advocate Liz Fort said.

Fort and Slagsvol both held signs and said "neigh" to carriage tours.

"There's still a thermometer on the 8th story, tucked around the corner in the shade, to determine if it's too hot on any given day. That's just not a fair assessment of the heat conditions that the horses are facing on ground level," Slagsvol said.

But Tommy Doyle, general manager of Palmetto Carriage Works argues the horses are monitored after every tour.

"When people say it's too hot, sometimes it is. I agree, but the best way to know is when you take the animals body temperature, and that is the key component to our animal welfare system," Doyle said.

Doyle says they take the temperature of horses every hour, and they're given 30-45 minute breaks when it's hot.

"Our animals average about five hours a day, five days a week and about 16 weeks off a year," Doyle said.

Fort argues heat is a concern, but it isn't the only hot topic advocated are concerned about.

"It's very unsettling to see so much construction, large vehicles and traffic. ...Then, you have a carriage clopping along in front of seven cars stacked. It’s a concern,” she said.

She fears for the horses and the people on the carriages for tours.

"There are a lot of times when you see small children on the back of the carriage with their legs dangling, no safety restraints or seat belts. God forbid the horse takes off like it did in June in a full gallop through the streets. It’s very dangerous, and I feel like the time is now to make some changes," Fort said.

"Horses and carriages in the city -- sometimes accidents are going to happen. But, I would say that it's safer to ride a carriage in Charleston than to walk on the city streets," Doyle said.

Doyle said the carriage tour companies have nothing to hide.

"Charleston has the most comprehensive animal welfare system in the country, and it's 100 percent effective. All of our barns are open to the public, and anybody can come take a look for themselves,” Doyle said.

Fort and other advocates say they want more proof.

"I want everyone to come together and agree to a third party scientific review and let the results speak for themselves," Fort said.

Doyle did respond by saying he would not be interested in a 3rd party review. He says he isn't interested in working with the animal rights advocacy group.

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