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Local officials are gathering input on a proposed ordinance to allow horse-drawn carriage rides in uptown Columbus with two public meetings this week.
The ordinance has been requested by District 1 Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes, and two businesses have approached the city in the hopes of being able to provide rides for a fee on Broadway, Front Avenue and Bay Avenue.
According to the draft ordinance, the horses and carriages would only operate on Broadway between 4th Street and 13th Street, on Front Avenue between 6th Street and 14th Street and on Bay Avenue between 9th Street and 12th Street.
Only one citizen attended a Monday night public meeting at Columbus Public Library. Amy Carruth, a Muscogee County resident of 15 years, said she strongly opposed the ordinance, stating horse-drawn carriages are inhumane.
“Horses are not designed to be on the pavement all day, standing, walking, they’re built for grass,” she said. “I would hate to see Columbus do this because I think it is cruel.”
According to the proposed ordinance, no animal would be allowed to work for more than eight hours a day, and would have to be given a break for food and water every four hours.
The horses would also not be allowed to pull a carriage when the temperature outside exceeds 90 degrees, or when heat index is in excess of 100 degrees.
“We all know, if it’s 90 degrees, it’s hard to exist outside much less pulling a heavy load like that,” Carruth said. “I wouldn’t have a problem with people pulling rickshaws, because that’s the people’s choice to do that. It’s not the horse’s choice to do this.”
A public hearing was held last July about the same issue, and more of the people there were against the idea than those who were proponents, said Ross Horner, president of Uptown Columbus.
“Our board has not taken a position on this,” Horner said. “I don’t know if they actually would, they haven’t come up against it. They just kind of wanted to see it play out and see how the public felt as well.”
Barnes said he wants the city to try it out and get feedback from citizens.
“If the citizens are unfavorable of it, they don’t think it’s a good idea, we can always stop it,” Barnes said. “I think it’s a benefit for the city, I think it’s definitely a boon to the Uptown area.”
Also included in the draft ordinance are the hours of operation. Carriage rides would be allowed between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; between 6 p.m. and midnight on Friday; between 11 a.m. and midnight on Saturday ; and between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Sunday.
Horses would be required to wear diapers at all times, and any manure or urine in the street must be treated with a chemical deodorizing solution.
A second meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the ground floor conference room of the Government Center Annex at 420 10th Street.
City Manager Isaiah Hugley said he would like to get feedback from some communities that have horse-drawn carriages, like Savannah or Helen.
Hugley said he would like to have at least one more public meeting before staff brings the ordinance to the council with any recommendations.
“We are going to do a lot of work before it comes to council,” Hugley said.