An injury accident involving a horse-drawn carriage Saturday night on the Country Club Plaza has sparked a swift outcry.
UPDATED: Almost 17,000 online petition signatures had been gathered by Tuesday morning asking the City Council to ban the practice.
I have bad news for the petition’s promoters: It won’t happen.
Quick note: I have never cared for the presence of the carriage rides on the Plaza. The horse urine stinks up some streets in the famed shopping district. Horses clip-clopping along next to cars and trucks makes me nervous. It can’t be great fun for the horses. Most curmudgeonly, I fail to see why humans find the rides that enjoyable either.
The online petition is far more direct in its criticisms, stating in part: “Tourists are blissfully unaware of the dangers associated with taking a ride on a horse-led wagon through busy city streets…. Horse-drawn carriages are inherently inhumane. Carriage horses are not mentally or physically capable of being surrounded by vehicle traffic and noxious fumes. It is not safe for horses, their passengers, motorists or pedestrians.”
But even given the recent event, the deck is stacked heavily against change.
— There’s no evidence of longstanding problems on the Plaza with the carriages, such as accidents, deaths of horses, or injuries to pedestrians and passengers. No charges are expected in Saturday’s event, either. And as The Star notes, some problems were indeed ironed out — more than 20 years ago.
— Kansas City Carriages, which operates the carriages, would fight very hard to stay in business.
— Plaza officials for years have allowed the carriages to use the crowded but basically low-speed streets there. It’s yet another way to attract shoppers (with lots of money to spend) to the shopping district.
— A customer boycott would be one way to shut the carriages down, but that hasn’t happened. They remain active, especially during these holiday seasons.
— The city’s regulators have not come forward with reports in recent years detailing sufficient reasons to stop Kansas City Carriages from continuing to operate.
Overall, Mayor Sly James and other Kansas City politicians, even pressured by an online petition and City Council member Teresa Loar’s hatred for the industry, have nothing solid to fall back on to call for banning a practice that is allowed in many other cities.
True, as petitioners point out, a few other cities have stopped horse-drawn carriages from operating. But many others — including New York City — continue to allow them, generally as a tourist attraction.
Bottom line: Don’t expect the latest accident or the online petition to stop horse-drawn carriages from slowly going up and down the Plaza’s streets.