By Jeff Labine
A vocal animal rights group is calling on the city to ban horse-drawn carriages following the death of a four-year-old-girl, leaving some to question whether it’s too early to draw conclusions.
PETA called on Mayor Lynn Peterson Monday to implement a ban on horse-drawn carriages in the city. PETA’s demand follows a fatal incident at Fort William Historical Park last week.
The four-year-old girl and other kindergarten students attended a school field trip to Fort on May 31. The children petted a horse attached to a carriage when it became startled and injured several children. Paramedics flew the young girl to a hospital in Winnipeg where she later died.
Coun. Rebecca Johnson said it is too soon to make any decisions on implementing a ban until investigations are completed and all the facts about the incident are known.
“I think when people and organizations start to act because of an incident I don’t necessarily think that’s the best thing,” Johnson said. “It’s not only in Thunder Bay that we have horse-drawn carriages but they’re all over the place. With one incident you don’t want to stop everything else.”
While family and friends held a funeral for the young girl Monday, Johnson said the focus should be on the family who lost their little girl and not generating publicity.
“This is the time to put that young lady to rest,” she said.
Gemma Vaughan, animals in entertainment specialist with PETA, said the only way to prevent another accident is to ban horse-drawn carriages. She said the incident at the Fort demonstrated that horses pose a safety risk.
The letter wasn’t intended to be sent at the same time as the funeral and PETA wanted to contact the mayor as soon as possible, she said.
“Accidents like this have happened in almost every city that offers horse-drawn carriages,” Vaughan said. “We’re asking the mayor to follow progressive examples such as London, Paris by implementing a ban.”
Fort William Historical Park falls under the Ministry of Tourism. Vaughan said PETA often deals with a city’s mayor as they often have the authority to place a ban.
“Horses aren’t afforded any federal protection under the Animal Welfare Act. The only regulations that are in place to protect the horses that pull the carriages are the local anti-cruelty statutes,” she said.
Vaughan added that the only way to ensure the safety of the public is to implement a complete ban instead of stricter regulations.
Officials with Fort William Historical Park could not immediately provide comment.