IHP President Richichi: “Two horses collapsing in just a few days is just not acceptable in a civilised city. Horse-drawn tourist carriages must be abolished, and we are willing to act here as we have in other cities.”
“The Regulation passed by the mayor of Palermo, following the collapse of two carriage horses in almost as many days, is simply ridiculous. This is a vaguely-worded document limited to banning the trade of horse-drawn tourist carriages only when temperatures rise above 35°C. The remainder simply confirms the “Regulation governing horse-drawn tourist services” of 2016, itself a vaguely-termed, totally ineffective document which merely illustrates the Far West situation in the city.” This is how Sonny Richichi, President of IHP (Italian Horse Protection, Italy’s first official Horse Welfare Association) describes Ordinance number 134, the Comune’s response to two dramatic episodes in which two horses, harnessed to tourist carriages, collapsed to the ground, within a few days of each other.
Following the second episode, IHP wrote directly to Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando, and to Antonio Sala, City Councillor for Animal Rights. In the letter, IHP requested detailed information about the two events and a report on the animals’ state of health, or whether they were actually dead, as some rumours have it. IHP also highlighted the inadequacies of the Regulation and offered its services as expert partner in the devising of a new Regulation which would be serious about actively taking horse welfare into consideration.
“In the long term, we believe that in 2021 such carriages are simply not part of a truly cultured and civilised city such as Palermo. However, while we ultimately look to a future complete abolition of horse-drawn tourist carriages, in the immediate instance we point out that the current Regulation is totally inadequate with regard to the most important issues”, said Richichi. He added that that Regulation contains only very generic notes on the ‘best type of horse’ to carry out the work, with no indication at all of the criteria and guidance as to what ‘best type of horse’ might even mean. “Furthermore”, he added, “there is no reference whatsoever in the Regulation that the horses must be examined by a specialised equine vet, of which there are vanishingly few in the public veterinary sector. Nor is there any reference to a minimum frequency such visits should abide by, unless we have to deduce such a frequency from the three-year duration of a licence, which in itself would make any checks on the welfare of the horses bland to the point of useless, given the dangers inherent in the work and working conditions these horses are subjected to.
The Regulation and the Ordinance as they stand certainly do not in any way guarantee the welfare of these animals.” He concludes: “We are still waiting for a reply to our letter. Since Councillor Sala has said he wants to set up a technical committee to look at the issue, we hope he will take us up on our offer to collaborate in that, not least because IHP is the only legally recognised equine welfare specialist organisation in Italy. Should nothing of the kind result, we won’t hesitate to act, and to mobilise public opinion, just as we did recently in Florence, where we collected 35,000 signatures in just a few days, asking for the abolition of horse-drawn tourist carriages in that city”.
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