Carriage drivers raise stink over horse urine law

March 31, 2011 2:23:11 PM PDT
You've probably seen them in the vicinity of Chicago's Gold Coast and Magnificent Mile: horse-drawn carriages. A new rule went into effect Thursday that requires drivers to clean up after the horses-- and some carriage owners say this new rule stinks.

Some residents have been complaining for years about the lingering smell of horse urine. The city has responded by requiring carriage drivers to clean up the mess. And that has caused an even bigger stink.

Horse-drawn carriage driver George Meyers never thought the odor was that bad.

"It's not an incident that happens a lot, I'll tell you that. Maybe once in an eight-hour shift at the most," Meyers said.

But, because of the big stink raised over carriage horses urinating on city streets, the horseman of five years now carries a liquid sanitizer to neutralize the smell after some area residents complained that the odor was almost unbearable.

"It's pretty bad. I'm right over there by Loyola University. At times, by Chicago Avenue, it can get really bad so I have to cover my nose," said Jennifer Jones.

Under the new rule now in effect, "Urine must be immediately diluted with a deodorizing, non-toxic liquid" that is "eco-friendly, safe, recyclable, and non-harmful to people and property."

The legislative requirement has left some of the city's horse-drawn carriage owners steaming.

Dan of the Historical Noble Horse says the new rule is "dangerous" and argues that horse urine doesn't have much of an odor.

"They don't drink or eat any processed food," said Sampson. "They don't drink Coke or beer. So it's water that we're talking about."

The new rule was triggered by numerous complaints, including one from Gold Coast resident Arthur Handelman, who says carriage horses left puddles of urine near his block last summer.

"You don't want to open your window if you're nearby. It's very noticeable," said Handelman.

Carriage horses are already required to wear a "catch basin," but 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly says the crackdown is about much more.

"Each week during the summer months, you'll see city crews at certain locations deodorizing these puddles. That is a waste of money," said Reilly.

Thursday afternoon, carriage drivers said they would comply, but it will be tough.

"In some places it will be more than others, because of traffic. It's more of a safety issue really," said carriage driver Teresa Pringle.

Some who live and shop in the area say, with the city's budget problems, the whole issue is ridiculous. The nominal cost of the deodorizers is being covered by the carriage owners and not the drivers.

City officials are also looking into having carriages operating only in city parks. They say they would increase safety and address concerns about traffic congestion.