ST. LOUIS - Horse drawn carriage rides through downtown St. Louis could soon be a thing of the past. Pamela Walker, the city's health director wants to ban the rides.
The carriages have rolled through downtown for more than two decades. The horses work through the St. Louis heat and cold. Walker says that's unfair to the animals. On Saturday night Walker spotted a horse she says was in trouble.
"It was panting heavily, breathing hard, gulping for air," said Walker. "It was showing the classic signs of heat exhaustion."
Walker says the high temperature and humidity on Saturday made it dangerous for a horse to be working.
A city veterinarian found Moose, the horse, was taking 80 breaths per minute when the normal range is six to 12. Walker says part of her job as health director is making sure animals aren't overworked or mistreated.
"We shouldn't have to wait until one of these horses collapses and dies in the street before we ban this practice," said Walker.
The horses live at Brookdale Farms in Eureka. The owner, Jerry Kirk says he feels this whole thing is just political.
"I don't think this is about a horse and trying to take care of animals," said Kirk. "I think this is about furthering an agenda and trying to say that having horse carriages is some kind of cruelty to animals."
Kirk says Moose is a healthy 2,000 pound Percheron horse that's bred to work and can easily pull three times his weight, even on a hot day.
"Percherons are the workhorses that built America," he said.
Kirk says his company takes good care of its horses, making sure every driver is trained and every carriage has a bucket of water.
"We don't treat our animals cruelly," said Kirk.
Walker says Moose can no longer work in the city and she'll try to shut down the rest of the carriage horses.
"I just don't think it's an appropriate thing to do anymore," she said.
Walker says banning the carriage rides could take months and there's no guarantee it'll happen.
Jerry Kirk says somebody has to fight this effort and he's ready and willing to do so.