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Associated Press - The Sun News - Myrtle Beach Online - July 28, 2006

CHARLESTON, S.C. - The welfare of carriage horses that clip-clop around this historic city is under scrutiny again from residents, months before a panel was to release proposed regulations.

For years, Charleston has regulated routes but now is trying to come up with rules governing how companies should care for the most important part of a multimillion-dollar industry that has helped define this tourist destination.

However, a group of residents, dubbed the Carriage Horse Safety Committee, claims animals often get sick and die in cramped stables because of the workload and wants tougher temperature thresholds that would be the cutoff for tours.

Carriage companies deny the group's claims and suggest those pushing for stricter guidelines are more interested in keeping the tours away from their homes on the downtown peninsula.

"I really felt like we were hitting a spot where everyone was pretty happy, and all of a sudden it was like a political movement just jumped up," said John Malark, an equine veterinarian and member of a city-appointed panel examining the issue. "They are trying to do everything they can to limit the amount of trips that are done. ... I hope they don't derail the whole process and cut down two years of work."

City Council will not see the panel's proposed rules until this fall.
The carriage industry in Charleston currently has a set of veterinarians'
guidelines, but the rules are largely unenforceable. Tour guides are supposed to check animals' temperatures when it's 95 degrees and stop tours at 98 degrees.
After more than two years of work, the committee has drafted rules similar to the current guidelines.

That has upset downtown resident Ellen Harley, who thinks the proposed rules may be too weak. "What we're seeking is humane treatment for the animals, period," Harley said. "That's the only agenda we have."

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