CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Council have approved its second and third reading of an amendment to make changes to the rules for animal-drawn tour carriages.
City officials say the amendment will take effect upon ratification. Council voted 9-3 Tuesday evening.
The proposal would mean reducing the highest temperature in which the animals would be allowed to operate from 98 to 95 degrees, lowering the maximum heat index from 125 to 110 degrees, and requiring four consecutive readings and changing the primary thermometer to the one on top of the Doubletree Hotel.
"Historically, that one always read or recorded approximately two or three degrees higher than the other thermometers that we use. So we felt that that was even a better benefit for the carriage-animals," Dan Riccio, Department of Livability and Tourism Director, said.
The amendment passed its first reading by Council on March 14 and the tourism commission last month.
City leaders believe this is a milestone that it has the potential of passing because there haven't been any changes made to the weather conditions for more than a decade (when the ordinance was first put in place).
City officials want to get this amendment in place before the season picks up.
Those with the carriage industry, however, don't really see a problem.
"The system that we're using today, and have been using for the last 15 years, has a 99.77 success rate. And my argument is, show me another city or program that has that success," Tommy Doyle, Palmetto Carriage Works General Manager, said.
Doyle added he does, begrudgingly, support the changes.
Those with the Charleston Animal Society, however, have a completely different view.
"We do not support this bill because it still leaves Charleston with the harshest, most inhumane and heaviest loads in the nation – the most extreme conditions in the nation. And that is something our community does not want," Joe Elmore, Charleston Animal Society CEO, said. Elmore said they would like to have a "true scientific study to determine humane working conditions and a humane working environment for the horses."
The animal organization published an ad in which they argue that only one reading above the maximum temperature should be required, not four. They also want the thermometers moved from the fourth floor of the hotel, where they say the temperature readings could be affected by the ocean breeze, to ground level where the horses are.
City officials say an ordinance like this has to have compromise – which they believe they arrived at with the amendment.