Use of horses in urban environments

The AAEP supports the humane and ethical use of horses in urban environments, such as mounted patrols, tourist carriages and taxi/limousine services, in accordance with federal, state and local animal protection laws. Research has shown that horses in urban settings adapt easily to their surroundings. Horses engaged in these activities require that special working and living conditions and precautions be taken for their safety and well-being. Urban environments present potential health and welfare hazards that may preclude their use, such as extremes of pollution, icy or otherwise slippery surfaces, climate and load.

Guidelines for the care of individual horses may vary by location. Horses should have access to fresh water and should be staged in areas which provide shelter from adverse weather conditions. The AAEP encourages research into the effects of climate on working horses in urban environments. This would avoid the tendency for setting arbitrary regulations that are based upon the effects of climate on horses in other equestrian activities that experience different levels of work than horses working in urban environments. Provisions concerning work hours, workloads and living conditions, health care, feeding, management, standards of driver training, and passenger safety should be prepared for each jurisdiction with the assistance of an equine veterinarian familiar with local conditions. The appropriate licensing standards with recommended minimum guidelines should be established and adhered to by local authorities and funding should be provided for re-inspection and renewal to confirm guidelines are being followed.

To ensure the health and welfare of horses in urban environments, they should be examined at least annually by competent equine veterinarians familiar with local conditions, with regard to body condition, freedom from lameness and disease, and appropriateness of living conditions and transport, with all findings recorded.

The equine veterinarian is the most qualified individual to manage the health care needs of the horse. The owners and caregivers of horses working in urban settings should have a professional relationship with a veterinary practice with equine expertise that can respond appropriately to all emergencies, including those in which humane euthanasia is required. In the absence of a veterinarian in such a situation, the AAEP acknowledges that it may be necessary for licensed, qualified animal control or trained law enforcement personnel to perform euthanasia using the established guidelines of the American Veterinary Medical Association. A veterinarian should be consulted, if possible, prior to euthanasia by a trained non-veterinarian. Educational programs should be developed for equine veterinarians to train law enforcement and animal control officers in horse handling, emergency assessment, and humane euthanasia.