MONTREAL — The elegant draft horses that pull tourist caleches through Old Montreal will soon be clip-clopping their way into the city's history books as the municipal administration moves forward with a plan to ban the activity as of 2020.
City Coun. Craig Sauve said Thursday he's introducing a regulation to end the horse-drawn carriages amid growing concern over the welfare of the animals, despite tighter rules imposed on the industry in recent years.
"The conclusions are clear: the unfortunate incidents involving horses and caleches have continued to occur," he told a news conference.
There have been at least four accidents involving carriage horses since 2014, as well as several hundred citizen complaints over the treatment of the horses, according to data provided by the city.
There were also 14 tickets given out in 2016 and 2017 for infractions related to horse health and the state of the carriages.
The city's new regulation would prohibit horse-drawn carriages anywhere on Montreal's territory as of Dec. 21, 2019.
Sauve said the timeline would give drivers and owners enough time find other work, noting the administration had been promising to end the carriage horse industry since the municipal election campaign last fall.
"We see there have been a lot of cases of horses being mistreated, horses dying while doing their caleche activities," Sauve said.
"We promised in the campaign to put an end to this industry, and we're giving them a year and a half to adjust and we think that's enough time."
The city also unveiled its revamped animal-control bylaw, six months after overturning the previous administration's ban on pit bull-type dogs.
Fomer mayor Denis Coderre enacted the pit bull ban in 2016 after a 55-year-old Montreal woman died after a dog attack in her backyard.
Mayor Valerie Plante's adminstration revoked the controversial ban in December and later held a series of citizen consultations to come up with the framework that was presented on Thursday.
While the new regulations do not target a specific breed, they impose tough conditions on dogs that are considered potentially dangerous due to past behaviour.
Any dog who is involved in an altercation or shows signs of aggression must wear a muzzle, be kept on a short leash away from children, and be evaluated by a behavioural expert to determine whether it should be euthanized or whether the owner should abide by strict conditions.
Owners of these potentially dangerous dogs must be over the age of 18 and cannot have been convicted of an animal-related or violent crime.
The bylaw also introduces mandatory sterilization of dogs, cats and rabbits and will require pet stores to sell only rescued animals.
It also brings in new welfare rules, including a ban on spiked or electric collars and a rule preventing dogs from being left tied outside for more than three hours.
Sauve said the city's approach will do a better job of reducing dog bites than breed-specific legislation, which he described as both ineffective and hard to apply.
"The best practices across the world show it's impossible to identify a dog (breed) visually," he said.
"You have to have a comprehensive approach, and that's what we're proposing here, to look at all dogs that are aggressive and not target one breed."
He noted the Quebec government recently reached the same conclusion when it decided to backtrack on breed-specific legislation tabled in April 2017.
Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said there wasn't enough scientific data to warrant going ahead with a provincewide ban on new pit bulls.
Both of Montreal's animal-themed bylaws are expected to take effect once they are adopted at a future city council meeting.
While the Montreal SPCA praised both the animal-control bylaw and the caleche ban, the owner of the city's largest carriage horse operation had a predictably different reaction.
Luc Desparois, who owns 22 horses and operates a stable near downtown, accused the administration of taking away at least 50 jobs and robbing the city of a historic profession he calls "a jewel of Montreal."
In a phone interview, Desparois said he's been the victim of animal activists and special interest groups who have worked to shut him down at all costs, despite the fact he says he's followed all the city's regulations.
He vehemently denies his horses are mistreated and says he has the vet records to prove it.
"Come and visit them and see: there's not a mark on them, not a sick one among them," he said.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press