FREDERICK, Md. - Horse-drawn carriages have become a holiday tradition for many and they can be seen in cities such New York, Chicago and even locally in our area in Downtown Frederick in Maryland. However, these carriages are drawing some protesters who say it belongs in the past.
Donnie Lambert says his horse and carriage rides have sold out every weekend since he took over the city tradition seven years ago.
"They have been going on in Downtown Frederick for 20-plus years," he said. "It's very popular in Frederick."
His horses, Bill and Bob, work together to pull people through this quaint area and nearby neighborhoods during the holidays.
"I love the people that we haul," said Lambert. "The kids come every year, the families come and the kids remember the horses' names, and it's just really neat.
"The smile on their faces - it does everything."
However, beginning last winter, Frederick residents and animal activists Michael and Stacy Boyer have been part of a group that has protested the horse-drawn carriages - holding signs in the snow last winter and most recently at a city board meeting this week.
"Horse carriage rides are not necessary in the 21st century," said Stacy.
They are asking the city to ban it because of the stress it puts on the horses while placing people at risk.
"Them being on the street makes it nearly impossible for them to be 'led to water,'" said Michael.
"They don't belong in these conditions," said Stacy. "When you look at pedestrian safety and traffic safety, if there was an ambulance that went by or a police car with his siren on that went by, even a dog barking, and if the horses are spooked, you can't predict when that is going to happen. It hasn't happened yet, but what if it does happens and you have children on the carriage ride?"
Meanwhile, the city has agreed to look at their current rules and language. But the Boyers say they plan to protest the rides every weekend until there is a change.
"Over 40 cities across the country have had incidents and what we don't want is Frederick to be added to that list," Michael said.
"I don't understand. If they would know me and know my animals, they would see that I am not abusing these animals," said Lambert. "This is their job. They were born and bred to do this."
There will be another board meeting in the coming weeks for more public comment on this issue.
The carriage rides begin Nov. 3.