San antonio Horse Drawn Carriages
San Antonio Carriage Horses - Are They Protected?
Photo by Hardy & Sherry at Crocket Street Carriage Stand
Horse-drawn carriages in downtown San Antonio have long been a common sight on our city streets. For just as long, there have been concerns of many of our citizens and visitors about the well-being of the horses that are pulling these carriages.  A recent complaint by PETA after an incident involving
a downtown carriage horse (not a Yellow Rose or HRH Carriage horse) has again brought up questions on the well-being of San Antonio carriage horses.

Anne Van Dyke, owner of Yellow Rose Carriage during TV interviewMost people do not realize that the City of San Antonio has worked hard to create an ordinance that addresses the health and well-being of these horses from many angles.    Many hours of research with veterinarians, with permit holders (like Rich and Anne Van Dyke of Yellow Rose and HRH Carriage Co.’s), the general public, and animal welfare organizations has produced a very comprehensive ordinance. In fact, the San Antonio ordinance, Chapter 33 which covers all ground transportation businesses, is one of the strictest in the nation when it comes to horse-drawn carriages.

The San Antonio Ground Transportation Unit, GTU, is the city unit which is in charge of enforcement over Yellow Rose Carriage and other horse-drawn carriage companies in San Antonio.  GTU is a division of the police department and they have the authority to issue warnings, citations, and/or remove horses from the streets if they feel there is any danger to the health and well-being of the horse.  They are often out monitoring the carriage stand locations and other activities of the carriages to keep a good eye on the horses as well as other aspects of the daily operations of the carriage industry. 

Following are paraphrased excerpts taken directly from the Chapter 33 ordinance which relate to the horses and their well-being.   For those who would like to read the ordinance in its entirety, a copy of Chapter 33 is available online at  or from the city clerk’s office.  Every horse that pulls a carriage must first be licensed by the City of San Antonio.  As part of the licensing process, the permit holder is required to provide a current health certificate and negative coggins, shot record, shoeing record, and the necessary fee.  Each horse is inspected by the city veterinarian. 

Pictures are taken and an identification number is assigned which must be clearly visible on the horse's hoof help the inspectors identify each horse. In the operation of a carriage service, horses can be geldings or mares, must be at least three years old; must weigh at least twelve hundred pounds; and must be in such physical condition so as to perform the required horse-drawn carriage tasks without any undue stress or effort.   Horses must be treated for internal parasites every four (4) months, and have their shoes reset every six (6) to eight (8) weeks.  Shoes must have a non-skid surface.

Horse-drawn carriage may operate every day from October 1 through April 30 only during the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and every day from May 1 through September 30 only during the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. However, all carriage service operations shall be suspended whenever the ambient weather temperature is at or exceeds 95°F. It is the responsibility of the permit holder and the driver to:
  1. ensure that horses are not at work for more than ten (10) hours in any continuous twenty-four (24) hour period.
  2. ensure that horses are kept clean, especially those areas in contact with the harness or other tack.
  3. ensure that pads and other pieces of tack are kept clean and in a safe and serviceable condition.
  4. ensure that appropriate and sufficient food and fresh, potable drinking water are available for each as necessary.
  5. not allow a horse to be worked on a public highway, path or street during conditions which are determined by officers with power to enforce this chapter and/or veterinarians employed by the city to pose a threat to the health, safety or well-being of the horse.  If conditions develop while a horse is being worked, the horse shall be returned to the stable by the most direct route.
  6. not allow a horse to be worked if they appear unfit to include:  lameness of any kind, open sores or wounds caused or likely to be irritated by the bearing surfaces of harness, bridle or girths, signs of emaciation, dehydration or exhaustion, and loose or missing shoes.
  7. A consecutive daily record of the movements of each horse shall be kept at the stable.  Such records shall be made available at any reasonable time and without prior notice for inspection by any officer of the police department or any veterinarian employed by the city.
The city manager shall promulgate such rules and regulations as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this ordinance and to promote the health, safety and well-being of the licensed horses.  A veterinarian employed by the city shall be available on a regular schedule and as may be necessary to provide inspections and ascertain compliance with the terms and conditions set forth in the ordinance.

A horse may be removed from service by any officer with the power to enforce and/or any veterinarian employed with the city if said individual determines that removal of the horse is necessary for health and safety reasons to protect the horse.  That horse shall not be returned to work until such time as the horse is reexamined and certified in writing by a veterinarian to be fit to return to work.

 Horses have long been an intricate part of Texas culture and Texas history.  The horse drawn carriages and the horses that pull them are a part of that great history.  They are wonderful ambassadors for the city of San Antonio.

Many people have come together to ensure the health and safety of these horses.    It is our hope that with your support and your prayers PETA, and others like them, will not make horses in downtown San Antonio nothing more than a fond memory. For those of us who have a personal relationship with the horse, it is of critical importance that these great animals progress with us into the future of Texas; that no one forces us to make them relics of our past.

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