PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The only remaining horse-drawn carriage tour company in Philadelphia says it is not closed and plans to be back in business this spring, despite some conflicting reports on social media.
However, there are a few steps the company will have to take to reopen.
Rumors that swirled around social media over the past week alleged that 76 Carriage Company was shutting down. But the company posted on their Facebook page that its stables are being moved and the horses are on vacation, with more details on reopening coming in the spring.
On its website, a post says it is currently in the process of relocating the carriage operation.
Councilman Mark Squilla tells KYW Newsradio the North Philadelphia property that housed the horse stables had been sold, and the last he heard from the company was that the horses would be transferred.
“They let us know that they are not closed,” said Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia Executive Director Sarah Barnett.
“They just retired some of their horses, and the other horses that they have, they said are at their other farm for the winter, and that they will be back in the spring and reopen then.”
76 Carriage Company’s website says it has a farm in Lancaster County.
Barnett believes that some horses were re-homed to farms in New England. The company’s site says that some of its horses in the past have retired at Blue Star Equiculture, a retirement farm in Palmer, Massachusetts.
Barnett also explained the licensing process 76 Carriage Company will have to follow to return to operation.
“With 76, if they are not closed, and if they are planning on coming back, then in order to reopen, they will not be able to reopen legally,” Barnett added, ”without us giving them a license and doing an inspection."
She said tour companies that use horse-drawn carriages have to have a license through ACCT. It’s issued once the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections check out the building where the horses are kept, and ACCT does a welfare inspection.
Activists against horse-drawn carriages like Stephanie Curson with Ban Horse Carriages Philadelphia also noticed Saturday that the horses weren’t in Old City.
“The horses weren't there which was concerning, and we called the company from a couple different phones and the number just kind of seemed disconnected. It wouldn't go through,” said Curson. She said protesters drove to their North Philadelphia stables, which appeared to be cleaned out.
“When we got to the stables, there were no horses there. The water tubs had been removed, the hay bales,” Curson added.
In the meantime, activists like Curson are pushing for City Council to ban the practice.
“We knew it was dangerous for them to be in traffic all day through all sorts of weather,” she said. “They are prey animals. They spook easily.”
“In order for a horse to pull a carriage in a city like Philadelphia, the horse has to be blinded. So they wear blinders. They have to wear uncomfortable bits and all sorts of tact and gear and equipment, and that equipment often rubs on them because they're wearing it for over nine hours a day,” she said.
Curson was involved in Center City throughout parts of 2022, particularly after the incident involving a 14-year-old carriage horse named Ryder, who collapsed in severe August heat and was whipped on the streets of Manhattan.
She plans to meet with City Council members in the coming weeks.
“We're hoping that these horses won't ever pull carriages again in the city,” said Curson.
City regulations say that the horses aren’t allowed to pull carriages in temperatures above 91 degrees, or wind chills below 26. Carriage companies also must allow 15 minutes of rest for every hour.
The city says people can call the Animal Care and Control Team if they see horses operating in unsafe conditions.