Horse Drawn Carriages
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Horse Drawn Carriages

MPs gallop to defence of Rome's horses

From The Times
Richard Owen in Rome

July 26, 2008

Owners of the horse-drawn carriages can charge up to 250 euro for an hour’s ride

A row over alleged mistreatment of horses that pull tourists through Rome on carriages reached the Italian parliament yesterday as deputies demanded urgent government action.

As they pass through the Eternal City, the carriages offer a romantic drive in which the clip-clop of hooves on the cobblestones recalls a bygone age. Opponents say that the horses are forced to work during the hottest part of the day, are not properly cared for and are put in danger by the city’s unpredictable traffic. What is more, they say, the tourists are ripped off by operators who charge up to €250 (£197) for an hour’s canter through the city.

Gianni Mancuso, a deputy for the ruling centre-right People of Liberty alliance led by Silvio Berlusconi, tabled a question demanding to know “what the Government intends to do about this scandal”.

Mr Mancuso, who is also a veterinary surgeon, said that although under city regulations horse-drawn carriage drivers were forbidden to ply their trade between 1pm and 5pm from July to September, this was “routinely flouted”. Mr Mancuso added that the horses were a health hazard because their parking places – including St Peter’s Square, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps – were “open-air latrines”. He claimed that the drivers also worked the horses “to death”, dispatching them to the knackers’ yard when they were no longer able to work.

Carlo Rocchi, head of the animal rights organisation ENPA, accused the drivers of leaving the horses locked up in dark and humid stables for weeks when it rains.

Animal rights campaigners have appealed to Gianni Alemanno, the Mayor of Rome, to abolish the horse-drawn carriages and transform their licences into taxi licences. ENPA said that it would find “happy homes” for the redundant horses.

In the absence of a fixed tariff drivers charge anywhere between €150 and €250 for an hour’s ride.

The drivers reject accusations that their horses are overworked. “The horses are our livelihood. Of course we take care of them” said a driver named Gianni. He said that he charged only €100 an hour, and made sure that the horse, Pappagone, was regularly rested, fed and watered.

Augusto Manzone, deputy head of the carriage drivers association, said: “Some of us may err, but there is no need to brand all of us criminals.” He added that a horse had collapsed last weekend on Piazza Navona, in the heart of Rome, but “it is not true that it had to be put down. It revived.”

Fabio De Lillo, of Rome city council, said that the carriages would not be withdrawn “because they are a symbol of Rome”. The rules governing their use would, however, be tightened up – and enforced.

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