Apr 17, 2022

Protesters Decry San Antonio’s Horse-Drawn Carriages as Animal Abuse

Reporting Texas

Protestors call out the treatment of horses that pull carriages in downtown San Antonio on April 16, 2022. Although the protest was held near the staging area where carriages line up, none were seen during the protest. Celeste Ramirez/Reporting Texas

SAN ANTONIO — Protesters Saturday in downtown San Antonio criticized the use of horse-drawn carriages as animal mistreatment. 

In front of the Hard Rock Cafe, 20 people held signs protesting the horse carriages that are commonplace in the tourist-heavy downtown, alleging that the companies that operate  the carriage rides are mistreating their horses. 

“We would like to put more attention to the issue (to) show what is actually going on to these animals,” said Lupita, 24, a member of Be The Change TX. She asked that her last name not be published.

Be The Change TX is alleging that horse carriage companies mistreat  the animals by not properly taking care of them and putting them and the public at risk downtown.

“There’s a lot of pedestrians walking around … and having these horse carriages, there’s that just adds another greatest risk for our community,” Lupita said.

Lollipop Carriage Co., Bluebonnet Carriage Co. and Yellow Rose Carriage Co. did not respond to requests for comment on the protesters’ allegations.

The protesters chanted “Get off the horse. Ride a bike!” and “Horses belong on fields, not on streets!” to pedestrians walking by. At the time of their protest, no horse carriages were working downtown.

Rosa Martinez, 25, chants,“Horses feel pain!” during the protest calling for an end to horse-drawn carriages in downtown San Antonio.  Celeste Ramirez/Reporting Texas

“(Horse carriage companies) treat the animals more like an object or like a product to be sold or marketed, like something to be accessorized to be more appealing,” San Antonio native Rosa Martinez said. 

Martinez, 25, said the horses are exposed to vehicle emissions that can be dangerous for them. 

“They’re breathing in fumes, they’re here with the traffic and they (can) get hit,” she said.

The carriage companies are allowed to operate within the historic King William District with permits and are not allowed to operate in temperatures that are 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above, according to the city’s Horse Drawn Carriage Rules and Regulations

Those rules aren’t enough, Lupita said. Be The Change TX posted about the protest on their Instagram, where the post received many people mirroring their concerns.

Teresa Aguirre, 60, was one of about 20 people who protested against the treatment of horses. “Cruelty is wrong in any form,” Aguirre said. Celeste Ramirez/Reporting Texas

“A lot of people, whether it’s for the animal rights issue, or whether it’s for the traffic issue that is downtown, a lot of people stand behind us wanting to ban the horse carriages,” she said.

 Lorin Hartwell, 35, learned of the protest through the group’s online post and wanted to show her support to stop the carriage rides. 

“We’re not in the 1800s. We don’t need to be using animals for joy rides,” Hartwell said. “There’s a lack of education on what’s really going on … with the carriage rides.”

The horse-drawn carriages are used as a tourist attraction, and San Antonio residents  don’t do enough to fight for change, said Destynee Luna.

“I think a lot of people from San Antonio don’t see it as cruelty because they’ve grown up with them (happening),” Luna said.

The group posted a petition asking the San Antonio City Council to ban the use of horse-drawn carriages and give the horses to sanctuaries, Lupita said. 

“San Antonio is expanding,” she said. “It’s already very crowded (downtown) and adding the horses creates more traffic so we definitely want to see an improvement.”