February 8, 1999
Mr. Alex Harkness, Chairman
Central Business Improvement District
400 West Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902
Dear Mr. Harkness:
I hope you'll pardon my forwardness in writing you about issues of your city considering I reside in other city and state, but a friend recently shared the news with me that you are considering a proposal to bring a horse-drawn carriage service to your city. Let me start by saying that I've always thought that Knoxville would be a wonderful place to live or visit, filled with beauty, tradition and charm.
Allow, I shall get to the point of my letter. I would like to ask you to reject the above-mentioned proposal. I live in Cleveland, and we have a horse-drawn carriage business that operates in downtown year round and operates special "sleigh" carriages around the holidays. As such, I have seen firsthand and up close how burdensome the business is on the animals.
As a matter of fact, I wrote to my own mayor asking him to look into the business after witnessing horses exhibiting behaviors commensurate with stress and overwork. I saw them in what is considered a highly stressed or agitated state--whipping their heads up and down forcefully, reacting nervously to passing vehicles and pacing back and forth when not moving with the traffic. The horses I observed were wearing large, heavy harnesses and pulling carriages and "sleighs" which looked to be much too heavy for horses to pull without struggling. Unfortunately, this business also chooses to run their horses even in bad weather further adding to their distress.
You might also consider an event which occurred just last month in New York City; a carriage-horse died after being electrocuted by stepping on a wire. Comments made by NYC officials indicate that the wire would not have injured most human beings, but completed a circuit with the horse because of his iron shoes.
You may be thinking that your city would be careful to regulate any carriage business in your town--more careful than ours perhaps or that your streets are safer than those in NYC. Unfortunately, even if you did and are, the discomfort and cruelty of the very nature of this type of business could hurt the horses and tarnish your city's image. Do you realize that cement/asphalt/concrete is very bad for a horse's feet; despite their iron shoes, it still hurts their feet not to mention the risk of stones or litter from the streets getting wedged between their shoes and feet. Even the most cautious carriage business could not prevent such incidents.
I hope that even though I do not reside in your city or even your state, you will think about the information I have provided for you here as someone who has witnessed the horse-carriage business close up and personally. I encourage you to think first of the well-being of one of man's most loyal helper animals and second of your city's image. Consider the welfare of these magnificent beasts and say "no" to this proposal.
cc Mayor Victor Ashe
400 W. Main Street
Knoxville, TN 37902