Animal rights activists greeted the first night horse-drawn carriages returned to the Country Club Plaza nearly a week after a carriage got loose, injuring a horse, its driver and two other people.
“We would like to see an end to this practice,” said Blythe Cooper, spokeswoman of Animal Action of Kansas City. “We see a lot of potential for these accidents to continue happening as we become a more congested city. So we wanted to come out with a physical presence now.”
About 20 protestors gathered at Nichols Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, hoisting signs as a stream of riders took their turns boarding a row of horse-drawn carriages. Kansas City police officers along with Plaza security stood by and watched the quiet demonstration.
Workers with the Kansas City Carriages declined to comment.
Police said the incident happened about 8 p.m. Dec. 3 at Ward Parkway and Broadway. The horse that was pulling a carriage with a driver and four passengers began running out of control. It then crashed into the fence on the bridge at Ward Parkway and Broadway.
The driver was ejected and fell over the bridge onto the ground below. The injured horse was loaded onto a trailer and was expected to be OK. The driver suffered a broken foot. One passenger had a broken forearm, and another passenger had an injured shin. Two other passengers were uninjured, according to police.
Derek Thurman and Tess Feeler said they had no safety concerns regarding their carriage ride Friday night.
Thurman, of Liberty, said he had planned to take his girlfriend on a carriage ride for her birthday a week before the accident.
“Horses get spooked, it happens,” said Thurman, who attends William Jewell College.
Since the incident, animal rights activists launched an online petition drive calling for a ban of horse-drawn carriages in Kansas City. Cooper said the group’s online petition gathered about 18,000 signatures.
The continued practice of horse-drawn carriages is dangerous for the horses and those who ride them, she said.
“The Country Club Plaza area, it is extremely congested, there is lots of traffic, there is lots of loud noises,” Cooper said. “There are bikes zipping by loudly, people’s sound systems and the horses are in this nose-to-tailpipe situation, and as they go around, they get the exhaust in their lungs; it is not healthy for them.”
Earlier this week, the co-owner of Kansas City Carriages said the company has operated for years without a serious accident.