Denton City Council members were divided about whether to allow horse-drawn carriages to operate in the city limits during a discussion in work session Tuesday afternoon.
The item was put onto the agenda by council member John Ryan, who wanted to explore whether the city could create an ordinance to allow the carriages to operate in city limits. They could be used as seasonal businesses to look at Christmas lights or for historic home tours, he said.
Mayor Chris Watts and council member Paul Meltzer were opposed and largely quiet during the discussion. Both Keely Briggs and Deb Armintor cited animal welfare concerns as the root of their opposition.
“Originally, hearing the idea I had very fond memories of horse and carriage rides in [New York City], and I have fond memories of that,” Armintor said. “But as soon as I started hearing about ... the risk to the animals, and when I looked for a model ordinance I searched for one — what’s a good one? — I was told there isn’t a good one.”
The Animal Services Advisory Committee voted to oppose the possible ordinance, citing several reasons including the treatment of animals, traffic concerns and how the city doesn’t have a veterinarian on staff to evaluate the working horses. If the city moves forward with an ordinance, the committee wants it to require horses to wear rubber shoes, not allow pregnant horses to work and would set a maximum age for working horses.
Council member Jesse Davis was vocal throughout the discussion, giving feedback on the best way to craft the ordinance, from having operators submit planned routes to ensuring that if there were any bad operators, they could be punished immediately.
“I’ve done the research as well, and been through the of advocacy groups resources, specifically about the concerns for the welfare of the animal,” Davis said. “I have confidence in our ability to regulate the folks who get an operators license, I have confidence in our ability to vet the people who get an operators license and the facilities they have and experience caring for the animals.”
Even with the criticism, staff will draft an ordinance to bring to a vote for council, allowing the public into the process of making the decision, Watts said.