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Opinion

Dallas, don’t stomp on a small business with horse-drawn carriage ban

The city should phase out this type of service without being heavy-handed.

Major cities like San Antonio and Philadelphia have been talking about banning horse-drawn carriages from their streets. Now the conversation has clip-clopped its way to Dallas City Hall.

If you live or work in the downtown Dallas area, you’ve probably seen these carriages trotting down the street with couples or groups of tourists aboard. It’s not a burgeoning industry, however. In the whole city, North Star Carriage is the only permitted operator, with five carriage permits, and it has been the sole operator for many years.

A City Council committee recently recommended that Dallas ban horse-drawn carriages. If the full Dallas council moves forward with a ban, it should do so in a measured way, without trampling a small business in the process.

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Horse-powered carriage rides may be quaint and charming, but they are a remnant of the past that we can do without. Some council members and residents say they are concerned about the safety and health of the horses, though North Star Carriage disputes that its horses are mistreated.

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It strikes us as heavy-handed to pass a regulation that would quash a single small business without evidence that it is doing something egregious. If the city is going to ban horse-drawn carriages, it should look for a way to allow North Star Carriage to continue operating under a grandfather clause.

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Some of the arguments against horse-drawn carriages in Dallas seem overblown. We question whether five permitted carriages contribute greatly to the frenzy on Dallas roads.

Sure, horses can be unpredictable sometimes, but every Dallas driver knows humans can be, too. We agree with council member Paul Ridley’s assessment that this isn’t a major traffic issue.

At any rate, incidents involving horse-drawn carriages seem to be few and far between. Council member Adam Bazaldua cited a few examples of incidents from his own research that occurred in the last 10 years, but a couple of them were in Highland Park, this newspaper reported. City staff in December said that they had no records of accidents involving North Star.

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Others have argued that the practice is cruel, but opinions are mixed. This newspaper spoke with three equine experts who said carriage horses can be kept healthy and treated humanely.

Dallas tourism would survive just fine if horse-drawn carriages were to ride off into the sunset after a ban. But absent any proof that North Star Carriage is violating health and safety rules, then it should be allowed to continue to operate.

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