Lunenburg resident Marni Gent says she took to the waterfront on Tuesday to speak on behalf of the voiceless: it’s too hot for the town’s iconic carriage horses.
“When you get a government heat warning saying its not safe for anyone to be out in this kind of heat, that’s not just a human warning. That’s for animals as well,” she said.
Gent brought a sign to protest Trot in Time’s treatment of its six horses during the recent heat wave. According to the Environment Canada website, temperatures in Lunenburg climbed to the low 30s with the humidex on Thursday. A heat warning has been in effect for much of this week.
The blistering weather, said Gent, makes for an unacceptable work environment for the animals.
Trot in Time, which is set up along the historic waterfront and takes visitors on a 35-minute horse-drawn carriage ride through town, operates seven days a week. The company usually has tours running from about 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. According to the company’s website, they only close for rainy days.
“We are only asking that the owner be fully responsible for the welfare of those animals. Keep them home in extreme weather,” Gent said, adding that she grew up around horses. “The onus is on the owner.”
When The Chronicle Herald
contacted Trot in Time’s customer service line, the company said that there was no one available tocomment at this time.
Furthermore, none of the drivers present along the waterfront on Thursday would speak to Gent’s protest.
Driver Leah Hancock was able to confirm that both the horses and drivers work on a rotating basis of three days on, two off.
This is not the first time Gent has been concerned with Trot in Time’s horses.
Gent noted that she had previously approached the Town of Lunenburg in an attempt to plant trees near where the horses wait in between tours. The idea was met with opposition and Gent backed off.However when she saw the horses working on Monday, Gent made the decision to prepare her sign and head down to protest.
“I got tired of hitting a brick wall,” said Gent.
Gent did concede that most days, the horses schedules are not a problem given the wind and fog coming off the water. But, she said, there are some extremely hot days that warrant an intervention.
She also suggested ways that Trot in Time could help keep the horses cool throughout the day, including shorter hours or providing shade for the animals.
If given the chance, said Gent, she would pay and plant the trees herself if it helped improve the horses’ working conditions.
“There’s always room for improvement,” she said.
On Tuesday, Gent took to Facebook to explain her protest. The post has since been shared nearly 900 times and, said Gent, much of the feedback is positive.
Gent said that she regretted putting on a public display during tourist season but she believed something needs to be done.
“When you have horses, you treat them well and they will last you a lifetime,” said Gent.
She added that she doesn’t want anyone to lose their jobs or to hurt the town.
“The objective for me is to protect these horses,” she said. “I’m trying to be preventative.”
Rachel Boomer, who speaks for Nova Scotia Environment, was able to confirm that the department had received an animal welfare complaint concerning the working conditions of the horses in Lunenburg. Department staff, she said, are investigating the complaint.
The Bridgewater Animal hospital was contacted for this article but was unable to respond in time. The Nova Scotia SPCA was also contacted but explained that the topic was outside their mandate.