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Horse collapse prompts appeal for shelter

Care concerns: SPCA chairman Andrew Madeiros (File photograph)

An animal charity is renewing its appeal for a designated water shelter for horses to be built in Dockyard.

The call comes after a horse collapsed in the searing heat at 12.30pm on Wednesday while returning to its stable.

Several people went to the aid of the stricken animal, providing water and shade while it lay on the ground.

The 11-year-old horse recovered and returned to its stable, but the SPCA would like to see Wedco take action in the wake of the incident.

Andrew Dias, Wedco’s general manager, told The Royal Gazette they were working with the SPCA to prevent a repeat of the incident, but maintained that the landowner had no say in the regulation of carriage horse operations in Dockyard.

A spokesman for the Ministry of the Environment confirmed last night that consideration was being given to “alternative schedules and conditions to avoid prolonged exposures to heat”.

The spokesman added: “The animal involved had been professionally vetted as required by legislation, and had shown no indication of ill health prior to the incident.

“It was one of two horses that had been used for a single, one-hour carriage tour that occurred at 11.15am, and was en route home at the time of the incident.

“No single causative factor can be identified in this case, but it appears to likely be a combination of factors involving heat index, work performed, access to water and the health of the individual animal.

“The animal will be re-examined before returned to work, if a return to work is to occur at all.”

After the incident, an online petition was launched calling on the SPCA, Wedco and the Bermuda Government to do more to keep the carriage horses out of the heat.

SPCA chairman Andrew Madeiros said the charity had met with Wedco on three occasions in the past to discuss carriage horses at Dockyard.

“We had been fighting issues in Hamilton for years and didn’t want the same situation in Dockyard,” he said.

“When they were starting to develop the area into the major cruise port we met to discuss carriage issues and offer suggestions to avoid problems, and also to make them aware of the legislation regarding the carriage industry.

“At our last meeting about two years ago, we met to express our concern that the horses were not provided any shaded area to rest, and there didn’t seem to be water available in the area they were resting.

“We were told that wasn’t Wedco’s responsibly. They only provided the location and it was up to the carriage operator to ensure the animals were properly sheltered. I disagree totally. Anyone promoting this business should ensure there are suitable facilities for the animals. Wednesday’s incident was completely avoidable.”

There are regulations governing the total hours that horses may work as well as mandatory rest periods.

There is a formal procedure for licensing of facilities, drivers and carriages, as well as health certificates for horses.

Mr Dias told The Royal Gazette that Wedco was “very saddened” to learn that the horse had suffered from heat exhaustion.

“Wedco is working with the SPCA to see where we can collectively assist to hopefully eliminate any other incident like this from happening again,” he said.

“The public should be aware that Wedco is not the licensing body for this type of operation, nor does Wedco have input into the granting of a licence for stables or carriages.

“Stables are licensed through the Department of Environmental Protection and also monitored by the government veterinarians.

“Carriages and their operations are licensed through TCD. Wedco does not licence nor have any agreements with anyone to operate a horse and carriage vehicle within Dockyard.

“Carriages operate like any other public service vehicle — however, as a result of this incident Wedco and the SPCA have had a meeting to formulate an ongoing relationship where the SPCA will be able to provide service on Wedco’s behalf to assist in improving animal protection on Wedco lands.

“The SPCA will then have the ability to provide ongoing feedback and advice to the various licensing authorities.”