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St. Louis health director wants to ban horse carriages

St. Louis health director wants to ban horse carriages

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ST. LOUIS • St. Louis Health Department Director Pam Walker said Saturday night that she would attempt to ban horse-drawn carriages from city streets.

Walker’s vow followed an incident in front of the City Museum downtown on Saturday night. Walker, who lives in a building adjacent to the museum, was walking her dog just before 9 p.m. when she spotted what she said was a horse “showing classic signs of heatstroke.”

Walker said she stopped riders from boarding the carriage being pulled by that horse, Moose, and stopped another horse, Ben, both of whom are owned by carriage operator Brookdale Farms.

When a Post-Dispatch reporter arrived roughly 15 minutes later, Moose was breathing heavily enough to rock the attached carriage.

Police had already been called to the scene. The Humane Society and Animal Control arrived later, as did the head of Brookdale Farms, Jerry Kirk.

“This is ridiculous. He’s totally and completely fine,” Kirk said after arriving and checking on Moose and pronouncing him healthy and well-hydrated. Kirk would later tell a reporter that Moose was a “big, big horse” who had always breathed hard. He said that all his horses had regular veterinary care.

Kirk and Walker, each asserting their extensive knowledge of horses, could not agree on whether Moose was fit to keep working. They also disputed the high temperature for the day. They eventually agreed that Moose, who was breathing easily by then, would go back to Kirk’s Lombard Street warehouse for the rest of the night.

Walker said that carriage operators had agreed not to start operations until after 7 p.m. on the hottest days, and only work them for four hours. She said that Moose started his day at 1:30 p.m. His driver's log showed three 15-minute rides during that time, at 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30.

Later, Walker said Kirk asserted that the agreement only kicked in after three days of heat advisories. 

Walker said that the health department had authority both over animals in distress and farm animals.

"I will ask for authority to ban them," she said after Moose walked toward home.

But she said if she fails to persuade city leaders to ban carriages, she would ask for an ordinance to make her authority clear.

She said that an employee would check on the welfare of all of the carriage horses Saturday night, and a veterinarian would visit both of Brookdale Farm stables in a day or two.

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