CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The City of Charleston's Tourism Commission passed an ordinance to decrease the current temperature limit that determines whether carriage tour animals can work.
The ordinance passed 9 to 2 and will now be presented to City Council.
As it stands now in the current temperature and heat index ordinance, the animals are taken off the street when the outside temperature reaches 98 degrees, the heat index rises to 125 degrees or the animals' internal temperature reached 103 degrees.
A special committee, formed last year, took a look back at four years' worth of data and is expected to propose to lower the current standards to the ambient temperature of 95 and the heat index of 110 degrees.
"We're making strides and moving in a positive direction. It's for the health and welfare of these animals that we're concerned about," Daniel Riccio, Director of the Department of Livability and Tourism, says.
According to Riccio, the city's current official thermometer primary location is the Dock Street Theater and the secondary thermometer is located at the DoubleTree Hotel in the downtown/market area.
The Department of Livability and Tourism recommends the City's official thermometer primary location be the DoubleTree Hotel and the secondary location be the Dock Street Theater.
"It would be more efficient to use the thermometer at the DoubleTree Hotel as the primary location due to this location being closer to where all the carriage animals queue and the ambient temperature typically measures two to three degrees higher than the thermometer at the Dock Street Theater," Riccio adds.
Animal welfare advocates say they'd like to see it go further, however, concerning the thermometers used to measure the heat.
"Let's get a true temperature reading and let's go to a more modern piece of technology to do that," Pet Helpers President Carol Linville said.
Committee members also voted in favor of ceasing carriage operations after having received four consecutive ambient temperature and/or heat index readings taken at least 15 minutes apart that show a temperature of 95 or above or a heat index of 110 or above. The current ordinance requires ceasing carriage operations after receiving two consecutive readings.
The reason for the recommendation is based on the need to establish a consistent temperature and/or heat index.
Historically, the committee said ceasing carriage operations after receiving two consecutive readings have proven inconsistent because of fluctuating temperatures falling below the mandated ambient temperature by the third and fourth readings, resulting in having to resume carriage operations with fluctuating ambient temperatures.
The Charleston Animal Society has called for an independent study of the carriage horses by a university.
"We are asking for a scientific peer-reviewed study," CAS spokesman Dan Krosse said.
They feel the historical data does not provide a clear enough picture of what temperatures are unsafe for the horses, he says. The study they propose would look at three areas: the heat, the weight load for the carriages and congestion in the city, all to determine what is a safe operating temperature for the horses.
They are also concerned about increasing the number of readings to four from two. Krosse cited an example of the reading above 95 degrees three consecutive times, but then read 94.9 on the fourth time. If that were to happen, the count would start over again.
Riccio says they do not oppose a study, but say that could take time to complete.
"We need to make decisions now rather than later for the welfare of these animals," Riccio said. "If at the time of this study that they do shows different results, I think we should come back to the drawing table and begin from there. But we've got to make change now instead of in the future because it's in the best interest of the animals."