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Issues with horse carriages in Dublin city centre

The times when horse-drawn carriages were the city’s main means of transport has been long forgotten. The only carriages that can still be spotted riding around Dublin, are used for leisure purposes.

However, the question remains: is keeping horses on crowded streets a good thing for them?  

There are two designated areas for horse carriages in Dublin city centre – in front of Stephen’s Green and the Guinness Storehouse. But often the carriages parked there are unlicensed, driven by underage and inexperienced drivers.

If that’s not enough, weary and unfit for workhorses are often seen illegally parked in Temple Bar, where they are forced to stay until early hours in the morning waiting for potential passengers.  

The old-fashioned Dublin Carriage Act, which has been in operation since 1854, allows carriage drivers to pack carriages with as many passengers as they please, with no requirements for the carriage to be insured.    

The 2011 by-laws written by Dublin City Council (DCC) were supposed to put order on unregulated Dublin carriage drivers.

Bernie Wright, from Alliance for Animal Rights, said that even though DCC brought in regulations, they don’t seem to be working.

“I’ve been onto DCC and they admitted that it’s out of their power to regulate it,” Wright said.

“The drivers are changing all the time, most of the times kids are being left to manage the carriages,” she added.   

Wright said that the biggest worry for their group is the question of the horses’ welfare.

Horses are often left to stand overnight, and many times would be awoken and forced to push the heavy carriage, overpacked with late night passengers.

“Horses aren’t slaves of humans, they are the same creatures as us,” said Wright, adding that horses in Dublin city have no protection from cruelty and misuse of their owners.   

A volunteer from My Lovely Horse Rescue, who wished not to be named, said that in most of the stables that rescue volunteers were allowed to visit, horses seemed to be in good condition and well taken care of, however, some of the visits left a different impression.  

“We have witnessed or had incidents reported to us of horses that are underweight, lame, exhausted, dehydrated, being whipped excessively, driven through red lights or drawing too many passengers,” the volunteer said.  

The woman said, that many of the issues occur because no inspections are being carried out on the horses’ state of health, and how much work the animals are being forced to do.

“We have concerns regarding where some of the horses are being kept in the city, we believe some do not comply with the Dublin City Control of Horses Bye-laws,” the volunteer said.

“Last time we checked in October 2018, only 15 horses in the entire area of Dublin city had a Horse Licence – there are hundreds if not more horses living in the city. So these bye-laws are not being proactively enforced,” she added.

Dave Mulreany, who has been a licenced carriage driver in Dublin for the past 20 years, said it is a shame that bad examples of unlicensed drivers are damaging the reputation of drivers who follow all the legal procedures.  

“It is frustrating to go to the Guinness Storehouse and queue with drivers who don’t have licences. Some of the good licenced drivers are out of work because of this,” Mr Mulreany said.

He said that the Liberties used to be known for their horses, but now it’s losing its authenticity.
DCC spokesperson Sinéad Murphy said that in order to regulate carriage drivers the Council prepared a new bye-laws draft in 2017, which is supposed to provide a stronger framework for the regulations to be imposed.  

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