Las Vegas Sun

August 23, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Thousands — mostly non-Nevadans — sign online petition opposing horse carriages

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Frank Franklin II / AP

Passengers enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride near Central Park on New Year’s Eve day, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in New York.

Posted online less than a week, a petition against horse-drawn carriage rides in Las Vegas — the City Council approved ride routes last week — had collected some 5,400 electronic signatures by Thursday afternoon.

Of the most recent 1,000 signatures, the Sun counted 30, or 3 percent, coming from people identifying themselves as Nevadans. The rest were from different states and countries around the world, including Croatia, Brazil, the Netherlands, South Africa and many more.

Bob Beers, one of four City Council members who voted to approve the routes for the rides, said he isn’t surprised, given the scope of the Internet, that thousands of people from around the world signed onto the petition.

However, he added, the fact that so few appear to be from Nevada made him wonder how many of those concerned about horses working in the heat realize that the desert climate makes a big difference.

“Do they know that 90 here is like 78 in San Diego?” he said.

If a horse-drawn carriage service ever gets up and running downtown, it would not be able to operate when the temperature reaches 90.

Of the various complaints Beers has heard, he broke them down into four categories: those worried about the heat; worries about accidents and worries about oversight.

As for accidents, Beers said every form of travel carries the risk of accident. “And I haven’t seen any evidence that the accident rate on horse-drawn carriages is higher or lower than cars, trucks, bicycles or pedestrians.”

For those worried the city isn’t staffed enough to regulate the business, Beers thinks many of those have never dealt with city staff. “They are probably unaware of our rather comprehensive ability to regulate,” he said. “We do a pretty robust job regulating business enterprises in the city.”

Beers said the thousands of petition signatures would be more significant if they had come from the Las Vegas Valley’s 2 million residents. But a petition that can be seen the world over via the Internet “kind of changes the significance of the raw numbers.”

The petition was written by Gina Greisen, head of Nevada Voters for Animals.

She could not be reached for comment, but the petition reads, in part: “Horse-drawn carriages in downtown Las Vegas are a tragic accident waiting to happen. Mixing horse drawn carriages with congested traffic, events that draw large crowds, lots of alcohol, the new Container Park, concerts and First Friday pedestrian and vehicle traffic is just dangerous, inhumane and wrong. And, this is VEGAS. Please help us stop this terrible idea.”

The petition is on the website, Care2.com, which features many other petitions, including: “Demand Justice for pet beaten by two school girls” has 52,000 signatures; “Stop killing whale sharks for lipstick” has 6,000; and “Protest marine animals from seismic air gun blasts” has 24,000.

The city enacted an ordinance allowing horse-carriage rides in 2007. A company had been operating the service until about 2012.

With the new routes, the rides are only allowed to load and unload from one spot near 4th Street and Ogden Avenue. The potential operators have said they would like to target their rides to newlyweds.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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