In light of recent events in Killarney in April 2018, where 2 tourists were tragically killed in an accident involving a pony and trap, MLHR believe it is vital that all Dublin City Councillors are made fully aware of major inadequacies with the current DCC Control of Horse Draw Carriages Bye-laws, the licensing process, enforcement issues and potential safety and insurance risks therein.
MLHR has published a comprehensive list of recommendations to improve the current system.
Issues With the DCC Current System:
There are ongoing issues of underage drivers, unlicensed carriages and unlicensed horses regularly operating at designated and non-designated hiring stands, including Temple Bar (until early hours of the morning). Enforcement by Gardaí across all districts is not consistent. MLHR believe this is due to a variety of reasons:
- Enforcement is not being prioritised by An Garda Síochána.
- Existing Control of Horse Drawn Carriages bye-laws 2011 are not robust in courts.
- Lack of awareness of Garda powers with regards to the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, Control of Horses Act 1996, DCC Control of Horses Bye-laws 2014 and Control of Horse Drawn Carriages Bye-Laws 2011, difficulties with logistics and seizing equipment/horses.
- Gardaí do not have powers to seize a carriage or horse for offences by driver or carriage owner under DCC Control of Horse Drawn Carriages Bye-laws.
Insurance and Garda Vetting Issues
- The driver and carriage licensing period usually runs from May to April. The insurance period by the main insurance company (based in Kerry) runs September to August. When a driver or carriage owner presents their insurance details for their licence application, according to the Council, there is no subsequent check made by DCC in September to verify if applicant's insurance has subsequently expired even though the continue to possess a carriage driver or carriage licence.
- There is no requirement to display or present insurance details.
- Gardaí do not have powers to demand proof of carrigae driver or carriage insurance.
- Drivers, underage drivers and carriages are in operation which MLHR alleges are unlicensed, which means they may not be insured or have public liability insurance noting the Council.
- Unlicensed operators would not be garda vetted as per the Carriage Driver licensing process.
Suitability of a Horse to Draw a Carriage is Not Assessed
According to the Bye-laws, horses used to draw carriages should have "a temperament and physical condition suitable to such work", be of a "suitable age" and "be cared for and treated in a manner which does not cause them unnecessary suffering".
- However, at no point during the driver or carriage licensing application process does a veterinarian from the Council (or any authority) REVIEW or APPROVE the suitability or age of a horse for pulling a carriage. No checks on hooves, correctly fitted shoes, teeth, stamina, fitness, harness or equipment the horse is engaged with. Badly fitted or worn shoes can cause a horse to slip, especially on cobblelocking and therefore risk an accident. Risks are higher in areas of dense population/where public are consuming alcohol e.g. Temple Bar.
- There is no minimum or maximum age of horse specified in the bye-laws.
- The specific horse/horses used during the carriage/driver licensing year is not relevant nor related to the carriage/driver licensing process.
No Routine Welfare Checks
- Regular checks on welfare of horses while working or while stabled do not occur.
- Ad hoc welfare checks are rare. If a welfare issue occurs after 5pm there is no way to contact Authorised Officers under the Animal Health and Welfare Act (DSPCA or Dept. of Agriculture inspectors) to assist Gardaí.
- As there are no maximum working hours for horses, and no routine checks, the risk of overworked horses being in operation is greater.
No Person Suitably Qualified to Assess Harness/Equipment
According to the Bye-laws, "only equipment and tackle [sic] suitable for the purpose shall be used in connection with the horse".
- There is no one suitably qualified in the Council or assigned by the Council to check that the tack is in fact suitable while horses are working.
Driver Competency in Driving a Carriage is Not Assessed
- There is no requirement for carriage drivers to have a motor driving licence or demonstrate any knowledge of the rules of the road.
- No carriage driving test/assessment is carried out on drivers by the Council as part of the application process.
- How are drivers currently assessed? Drivers submit this short form signed by a colleague in the industry who is on a list held by the Council (the Council possess a list of names they have had in their possession for years, some of whom are not licensed, yet are authorised to approve a 'Letter of Competence').
Driver/Carriage Owner's Equine Knowledge Not Assessed
No assessment is made on the carriage driver's stable management, equine knowledge, ability to care for a horse or equine first aid.
Difficulty in Reporting Incidents
Due to the lack of regular welfare checks, it is generally left up to members of the public to report welfare issues, however it is difficult for the public to identify carriages, as licences (if present) are extremely difficult to see. The Carriage Licence is a dark metal plate.
Horses to be Licenced ("Horse Licence")
As of 4 September 2017, 14 horse licences were in force for the entire Dublin City Council area and according to the Council, not all of these were for carriage horses - yet over 32 horse and carriages are in operation on busy days.
- Possessing a Horse Licence for a horse DOES NOT MEAN the horse was approved by a vet as suitable to draw a carriage. It is a simple check, once per year, of any horse in the DCC area (if application made) that includes a review of a horse's stable to ensure it complies with the DCC Control of Horses Bye-laws.
- When a vet reviews a horse's stable, according to the Council he/she only reviews the specific stall/stable the horse is in, not the entire yard.
- The DCC horse licensing system does not specify acreage for a horse like in other jurisdications (e.g. Louth) to have space for turnout and for horses have an opportunity to express natural behaviours outdoors.
- There are loopholes with regards to the requirement for a horse licence for carriage horses if e.g. the horse resides in SDCC.
Issues With Carriages
- As unlicensed carriages are in operation - these carriages have therefore not passed a mechanical inspection by the Council's Inspector which would occur during the licensing application.
- It is MLHR's understanding that a mechanical assessment of a carriage is made while the carriage is static, not while it is in motion or hitched to a carriage horse. The mechanical inspection occurs once per year and only for carriages licences for which are applied for.
- No ad hoc inspections of carriages occur by a mechanical fitter/inspector from the Council during the year.
- Many carriages are currently in operation during the hours of darkness with poor lighting, no lighting/reflectors.
Issues at Hiring Stands
- Access to water at Designated Hiring Stands for drivers is an issue. Water is essential for keeping horses hydrated and for cleaning horses' legs, urine/dung and keeping the area clean.
Horses to be Microchipped and Passported
MLHR allege there are horses in operation that are not microchipped nor have a passport. Equine identification is a legal requirement.
What MLHR are Doing:
In June 2017, MLHR was informed by DCC that revised bye-laws would be published for public consultation in September 2017 and since then, MLHR have carried out extensive research and consultation with stakeholders including:-
- Dublin City Council.
- Licensed and unlicensed carriage drivers and carriage owners.
- An Garda Síochána.
- Equine professionals (vets, farrier, dentist and physiotherapist who work with carriage horses).
MLHR also reviewed and consulted with vets who work with the New York carriage horse licensing system (a more advanced system than the Dublin with regards to horse welfare, compliance and traceability).
MLHR has drafted over 50 recommendations on how to improve the current system. Many of the drivers and carriage owners we spoke to concur with our findings and want to see a more professional industry in place.
Dublin City Council has advised MLHR that drafting is currently underway on revised DCC Control of Horse Drawn Carriage Bye-laws. These may (or may not) be made available for public consultation.
What We Want to See Happen:
- Enforcement of existing legislation (Acts and Bye-laws) by An Garda Síochána, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Dublin City Council at hiring stands, while horses are working and with regards to horses in general in the city and where they are stabled.
- MLHR Call on DCC to engage with stakeholders to ensure that any revision to the Control of Horse Drawn Carriage Bye-laws incorporates the following:-
- Actual checks/controls on equine suitability and welfare during the licensing application process and while equines are working.
- Actual checks/controls on driver competency and horsemanship - definition of "competency" to be fully reviewed to ensure safety and welfare of passengers and horses.
- Tightening up of insurance loophole.
- Improve the ease of identifying carriages so that incidents can be reported more easily (reflective licence plate clearly positioned on carriage).
- That any revised bye-laws facilitate greater ease of enforcement for An Garda Síochána who are ultimately the main agency tasked with enforcing the Bye-laws.