The holidays in Miami Beach were poised to look like something out of a Christmas movie, complete with horse-drawn carriage rides for tourists, kids, and romantics.
The Washington Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) announced on social media and a now-deleted Eventbrite page that it would offer the carriage rides December 19 through 31. But a handful of residents and animal activists called the event antiquated and questioned whether horses should be pulling hundreds of pounds of people on the busy streets of South Beach.
"It's almost 2020," says Sara Velasquez, an animal rights activist who lives in Miami Beach. "There's no reason to have animals as a source of entertainment. It's just wrong."
Velasquez says she emailed the city manager and commissioners when she heard about the event and asked them to revoke its approval. The Washington Avenue BID ultimately canceled the event yesterday.
In a statement on Facebook, the BID says it is "sensitive to the care and fair treatment of animals" and decided the horse-drawn carriage rides were "not in the best interest of the Washington Avenue Business Improvement District." A representative of the district did not immediately return a call from New Times today.
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Cities across Florida and the United States have banned horse-drawn carriage rides in recent years. The New York City Council, for one, has approved restrictions on horse-and-buggy operators.
PETA, which documents incidents on horse-drawn carriages, says the rides can be dangerous for the horses and for people if the animals become frightened and bolt. In February, a horse galloped uncontrollably at the sound of construction noise in Savannah, Georgia, and fell, sending seven people riding in the carriage to a hospital. PETA has documented ten incidents in Florida between 1993 and 2017, most of which happened in St. Augustine.
Velasquez says animals and public places in Miami Beach don't always mix. That was the case when a woman rode a horse into a packed club last year.
"We have a beautiful city with beautiful animals around us," Velasquez says. "We should be able to protect them and respect them."