Horse-Drawn Carriage Controversy in Charleston


Eliot Leadem, Writer

Within the last year, horse-drawn carriages in Charleston have reached more publicity for their notorious accidents than ever before. Used for scenic historic tours of downtown Charleston, the horses’ work load are bound by the number of tourists, a number that Charleston does not lack in. The tourism department has flourished in the last few years, promoting the several horse-drawn carriage companies in Charleston to increase the number of tours. These companies include names such as Old South Carriage Company, Palmetto Carriage Works, Carolina Polo & Carriage Works, and Classic Carriage Works, LLC, all of which have established their presence downtown and promote trademarks such as “Look for the Red Sash”. Yet, as Charleston expands in the tourism industry, controversies are sparked over the ethical treatment of the horses and a call for strict regulations has been enacted by many. Whether there were more undocumented incidents occurring years ago, the following controversies have been concentrated and have reached publicity more frequently in the previous months, despite proposals to help the “urban horses”. PETA and other local individuals have advocated for extreme restrictions on the companies, yet they claim the horses are treated well and that they receive time off in rural, more comfortable areas inland. The following timeline describes the recent incidents surrounding the industry:

July 28, 2006- Carriage Horse Safety Committee pushes for regulations in the carriage industry, such as lower temperature limits and earlier cutoff times

July 19, 2011- 20-30 members of the horse carriage industry in Charleston meet to add amendments to the City Ordinance, covering the care of carriage horses on and off duty

July 16, 2015- Carriage horse collapses on East Bay St after a truck spooked him; crowd surrounds the horse and cheers him to his feet

July 29, 2016- Charleston officials plan to review treatment of carriage horses after receiving over 50 complaints in a 2 month span

August 28, 2016- Bystander Zoe Bergmann uploads a photo of “Berry”, a horse who “threw a shoe” and went the length of a street with a bleeding hoof; Post receives 6,000 shares on Facebook

August 31, 2016- Classic Carriage Works accused of mistreatment of “Berry”, as they “proceeded try and quickly rip off the shoe with no tools or compassion”

December 14, 2016- City committee meets to lower temperature limit from 98 to 95 degrees, heat index from 125 degrees to 110 degrees; yielded a 5-1 vote, putting the regulations into action

January 18, 2017- Horse from Palmetto Carriage Works collapses onto its knees at 10:30 at the corner of King St and South Battery St

January 18, 2017- Horse from Old South Carriage company steps backwards after a light turned green, causing the rear end of the carriage to bump into the hood of a trailing car

January 25, 2017- Mayor Tecklenburg shares his State of the City address, highlighting upon several issues facing Charleston, including “lower temperature limits for carriage horses”