I VIEW with grave concern the news that City Hall has introduced horse carriage rides in Kuala Lumpur.
Horse carriage rides have never been part of the Malaysian cultural identity and there is no reason to introduce it now to ostensibly boost tourism. It is not a practical or cost-effective way of getting around the city or visiting places of interest.
Heavy traffic, frequent construction work, hot weather and poor road conditions all make it impractical and unsafe to have horse carriage rides along the proposed routes and areas.
Although Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib claims that the horses have acclimatised to Malaysian weather and the busy traffic, there will always be a risk of heat exhaustion, accidents and injuries to the horses.
Horses suffering from dehydration or heat stress can die in a matter of hours before the arrival of veterinary help.
As stated by Dr Holly Cheever, vice-president of the New York State Humane Association, it is normal for horses to “react to threatening situations with panic and flight”.
Due to the large numbers of accidents involving horses that were “spooked” by traffic while pulling carriages, New York City is now considering a ban on horse carriages for safety and compassionate reasons.
It is unnatural, unhealthy and cruel for horses to continuously breathe smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic.
In a study by veterinarian Jeffie Roszel, “tracheal washes and samples of respiratory secretions from these horses showed enormous lung damage, the same kind of damage you would expect from a heavy smoker.”
Carriage horses working in cities are also susceptible to lameness and hoof deterioration from walking on hard, hot asphalt roads. This problem is compounded by the fact that many horse handlers in Malaysia are not trained professionals and are unable to detect injury or illness and are unwilling to stop an exhausted or lame horse from working when a customer has already paid the fee.
Many cities around the world, including London, Paris, Toronto and Las Vegas, have already implemented horse carriage bans following pressure from concerned citizens and safety incidents.
WONG EE LYNN