The horses’s name is Cocotte, and on Monday afternoon she was recorded on a cellular phone after she fell in front of Montreal’s well known Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal.
Diane Villeneuve witnessed the animal falling to the ground, while still harnessed to the carriage.
“The horse’s front legs gave out, and the animal’s head and jaw hit the ground hard,” Villeneuve told CBC
Villeneuve then recorded a video of the calèche drivers trying to revive the horse.
She said they worked for about 10 minutes, taking off the harness and trying to get the animal back on its feet.
While it’s not clear what caused the horse to collapse, animal rights activists say it is the effect of ongoing mistreatment.
Mirella Colalillo is the spokesperson for the Anti-Calèche Defense Coalition. She says she was saddened by the images but not surprised.Listen
The group is part of a chorus of voices that have been calling for a ban on horse-drawn calèches for several years now.
There are about 6 or 7 owners of horses and carriages in Montreal, one of whom owns about 20 horses.
They take people, generally tourists, on tours around the cobble-stoned streets of Old Montreal.
In early 2016, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre imposed a ban before the summer season.
A Quebec Superior Court justice, however, issued an injunction on the proposed municipal regulation.
Mayor Coderre did not oppose the decision and proceeded to change the regulations in an attempt to improve the conditions for the horses.
Mirella Colalillo says the conditions now are even worse. “We have never seen the horses in such a terrible state” she says.
The group was monitoring the activity over the summer season.
“So skinny, so many injuries…” she said. “Many of these horses need help and if they don’t get help they’ll die, they’ll just die, or they’ll be used until the end of the summer and then sent to auction and then probably end up in the slaughter house.”
Colalillo says the group expected more in the wake of the Mayor’s moves.
But the scene on Monday, the end of a holiday weekend, has people now asking questions about the effectiveness of the new rules, and more people are demanding an outright ban on the controversial tourist attraction.
She cites the example of Rome, the oldest city in the world, Mirella Colallilo says, and they are banning horses.
They’re banning the carriages in Rome and they’re replacing them with electric carriages, but it’s taking a lot of time to adopt the prototype, and the whole process is taking a lot of time, and it’s expensive.”
Colalillo says the horses don’t get breaks during the hot summer, they don’t have adequate water and food. When told that during the incident on Monday the driver tried to tell people that the horse had fallen asleep, Colalillo says, “It’s an excuse, because they think people don’t know horses and they can say whatever they want.”
The debate over the practice is bound to get more heated in the upcoming weeks, and a municipal election is on the horizon in November, so Mayor Coderre may be raising the issue once again.
With files from CBC and CP