St. Louis health official urges horse-drawn carriage ban

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-Carriage rides in downtown St. Louis could be a thing of the past. The city's health director approached members of the city council Monday looking to ban the practice.

It was Saturday night when the carriage horse, Moose, was encountered by the St. Louis city's health director Pam Walker. She shot video, and clearly believed something was wrong. And the lone incident could lead to broader ban on all horse drawn carriages.

“I have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of these horses,” said Walker. “And the current situation just indicates to me that the only way I’m going to be able to do that is to ban them.”

Moose's owner, Jerry Kirk of Brookdale Farms, says the horse received a clean bill of health Monday.

“Our vet, who is an equine specialist, said in his opinion that Moose is fine to work and pull a carriage and do exactly what he is supposed to do,” explained Kirk.

Kirk and Walker disagree about what was making the horse breathe so hard the other night. On social media Walker insisted he was being overworked. Kirk says otherwise.

“He had just finished a ride,” said Kirk. “The video tape that shows him breathing hard would be like if you had just finished walking or you had just finished running.”

Walker said, “I was raised on a 500 acre cattle farm. I know a horse in distress when I see one. That dog won’t hunt.”

As for a possible ban, that's been a political football in places like New York City, and now it appears to be one here.

“I think maybe she’s part of a small group that wants to further an agenda that doesn’t maybe apply to all the rest of us,” said Kirk. “I think this was really about headlines and all the rest of that than she was the health of the horse.”

“There’s no political agenda, but I will guarantee the health and safety of these horses and if that requires a ban, that’s what I will support,” said Walker.

Walker says getting an ordinance drafted and passed would be a long process. Likely made longer by the fight the carriage businesses would put up.

The American Veterinary Medical Association's policy on all this says the horses require special care, but the vets say nothing about banning horse drawn carriages.