Charleston City officials propose new changes to horse-carriage ordinance, second within year

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - For the second time this year Charleston City officials have proposed a new change to the weather condition ordinance regarding animal-drawn vehicles for touring.

The announcement was made during the Charleston Tourism Commission meeting Wednesday night.

Currently, carriage operations can resume after the Department of Livability and Tourism or the police department has received two consecutive readings which are taken at least 15 minutes apart that demonstrates that the ambient temperature is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit and/or the heat index is below 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The proposed changes reads as follows:

"The department of livability and tourism or the police department shall monitor the temperature and heat index and authorize the carriage operations to begin operating on the street again after it is determined that the temperature is below 95 degrees Fahrenheit and/or the heat index is below 110 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 30 minutes from the time of the first reading. However, if the temperature and/or heat index rises above the prescribed numbers at any time during the first 30 minutes, the process starts over until the ambient temperature remains below 95 degrees Fahrenheit and/or the heat index remains below 110 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 consecutive minutes."

Those changes would need to be voted on by Charleston City Council, and go through a series of readings.

This would be the second change to the ordinance in a matter of a year.

In March, City Council approved changing the temperature from 98 degrees Fahrenheit and/or a heat index of 125 degree Fahrenheit, to the current 95 degrees and/or 110-degree heat index.

Also at the Tourism Commission meeting, community members and commission members learned about the temperature gauges, provided by WeatherBug, which are used to collect the data.

Currently, there are at least three gauges on top of buildings in downtown Charleston. One is located on the top of the Gilliard Center, and another is on top of the Double Tree hotel near the Market.

At the meeting, employees from the City's IT departments answered questions about the temperature gauges and the City's interaction with WeatherBug.

In the past, animal rights groups have requested those gauges be relocated to areas on the ground to get a better reading for the temperature horses deal with during the hot summer months.

Chief Information Officer for the IT Department Wes Ratterree said they talked to representatives with WeatherBug about those possibilities but were told the data collected would not be certifiable.

Ratterree said the gauges would be impacted by outside variables including radiating heat from cars, trucks, etc. along with emissions.

"Horses have to deal with emissions and radiating heat on the ground," said a member of the commission. "So why wouldn't that make for an accurate reading?"

Ratterree added the city originally looked at another company to collect the temperature data back in 2011, however the company unexpectedly backed out of negotiations.

"It's hard to accept this is a dead end on this issue," said a member on the commission.

Ratterree said he and others within the city are working to get a representative from WeatherBug to explain the process to the Commission at a future date.

The meeting also looked to introduce the Charleston Carriage Horses Advocates (CCHA) and Carriage Association for Responsible Equine Safety (CARES) groups to each other.

Copyright 2017 WCSC. All rights reserved.