Campaign to end Horse-drawn-carriages: Austria

Contact: VGT – Vienna, Austria 
elisabeth.sablik@vgt.at

ViennaThe Austrian animal advocacy NGO Association against Animal Factories (VGT) has been running a campaign to end the use of horse-drawn-carriages since 2006.

For information about the campaign, CLICK HERE

General information about carriage horses in Austria

Austria has horse-drawn-carriages operating in three of its federal state capitals; Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. In Vienna 160 licences have been issued. Each licence is for a carriage with two horses, which means there are 320 horses registered. In Salzburg there are five companies operating and in Innsbruck three.

The keeping of horses is covered by the Federal Animal Protection act, the main points of which are:

Housing and stables

Flooring must be non-slip, and boxes must have straw bedding, which is dry, and the area must be large enough for each horse to lie down.

Freedom of movement

Keeping horses tied is prohibited with a phase out period until the end of 2009. However the phase out period also stipulates that horses must be turned out daily whereby they have freedom to exercise. Training and working do not count.

During the time that it is still permitted to tie horses, they must be able to move backwards, forwards, from side to side, lie down and eat without being restricted.

Light

If there is no access to outside, the stable building must have windows that allow enough daylight in.

Nutrition

Stables must have appropriate mangers and provision for allowing horses to eat and drink.

Care

All tack and harness must fit properly

In addition horse-drawn-carriage operators in Vienna should comply with the Horse and Carriage to Hire law. This law states that horse-drawn-carriages may only operate between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. This includes time needed to tack up, put to harness and travel to the tourist pick up point.

Research into conditions

VGT has carried out research over several years into how carriage horses are kept and their working conditions. This research reveals the following problems:

Keeping conditions

Horses are tied without being turned out in a paddock or similar area
Stalls and boxes too narrow
Stalls and boxes not allowing horses to see each other
Stalls and boxes without straw bedding
Horses kept in the dark
No access to drinking water
Potentially dangerous conditions
Horses kept in spaces, which are too small for both of them to lie down
Horses kept on tiled flooring
Use of sedatives on horses

Working conditions

Ill-fitting tack and harness
Bald patches on horses’ coats
Wounds
Lameness
Hooves and horseshoes in bad condition
Emaciated horses in service
Little to no food given
No provision of water
Long periods of standing in extreme temperatures
Operating outside legally stipulated hours
Horses given no freedom of movement
Walking, trotting and even cantering constantly on tarmac
Use of muzzles
Rough handling of horses
Horses showing signs of stress
Frequent road traffic accidents involving carriage horses

Official inspections

Inspections are superficial and not frequent enough

Penalties

Weak to non-existent penalties
No changes made following a penalty

Campaign demands and solutions

The aim of the campaign is to achieve immediate improvements in terms of the horses’ welfare with the intention of phasing out the use of horse-drawn-carriages altogether.

VGT demands:
Effective inspections
Effective enforcement of the law and appropriate penalties
The working day for carriage horses limited to six hours
At least two free days a week for each horse
Horses kept in stalls or boxes must have paddock access daily
Horses are not to be kept in the dark
Horses are to be offered water in between trips
Adequate protection from extreme temperatures
A ban on muzzles
Use of shock absorbing horse-shoes
Relocation of stables to parks and green areas

Solutions

A win-win situation for all parties concerned would be to replace horse-drawn-carriages with environmentally-friendly, high-tech vehicles.

The campaign so far
Using the research as a basis VGT has alerted the authorities, politicians, tourists and media to the suffering of carriage horses. Regular contact with those mentioned above and charging drivers for breaking the law is resulting in improved inspections.

The major of Vienna has also been approached about replacing horses with environmentally friendly high-tech vehicles.

Regular campaign updates – CLICK HERE.


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