By Emily Williams – [email protected]

Published July 29, 2021

New rules for Charleston’s carriage tour businesses are heading to City Council but the group that proposed the idea isn’t pleased.

The Tourism Commission voted this week to approve a pared-down ordinance that includes new requirements related to employee training and other changes.

The proposal won approval Wednesday, but the earlier version stirred up more debate, and commission members voted down a significant portion of the recommendations they reviewed in June.

Commission members then decided to reconvene this month and requested a “clean


The Department of Livability and Tourism has been working on the proposal for since last August when the animal rights group Charleston Carriage Horse Advocates submitted new regulations that they wanted to see the city adopt. They included guidelines for where small children can sit on horse- and mule-drawn wagons and random drug tests for carriage drivers.

City staffers reviewed that proposal and drafted its own ordinance that they felt was “legal and practical to enforce,” said department director Dan Riccio.

The revised version that Riccio’s office brought to the commission this week stated that carriage tour operators must:

  • put high-reflectivity markers on the front, back and sides of the carriage

  • implement a “structured annual training program” subject to the city’s approval

  • designate at least one employee per shift trained in first aid for horses to act as a “first responder” in the event of an accident.

Also, the Department of Livability and Tourism would be given the authority to stop carriage tours in the event of an emergency, such as severe weather.

Riccio proposed that idea previously, after he suspended carriage activity in 2019 during a severe thunderstorm warning. Charleston C.A.R.E.S., a coalition of three carriage companies, appealed that call, saying it had “always been to the discretion of the individual carriage companies to decide when and if tours” should he halted and that it should stay that way.

In a statement after this week’s vote, the Carriage Horse Advocates criticized the commission members for scrapping many of its suggestions, saying that they “voted to turn their backs on real common sense safety reforms” and instead sided with the businesses.

Tyler Jones, a spokesman for Charleston C.A.R.E.S., told the commission Wednesday that the shortened version that was up for a vote was a “significant improvement” from the original version, though the group also felt a new ordinance is “unnecessary.”

Brian Turner of the Preservation Society said Wednesday that his group was “encouraged by some of the changes” but was disappointed that “many of the common-sense measures” in the original draft were removed.

As an example, he said that safety rules for children and requiring tour companies to create emergency management plans could help the city “reduce its legal exposure,” Turner said.

The commission voted to send the proposed ordinance to City Council without much public discussion.

“I believe we achieved our goal of just having something cohesive that has chance to be reviewed and discussed and also something that may be a starting point,” chair Michael Saboe said.

He acknowledged that everyone might not be satisfied with the final version. The public will have more opportunities to weigh in when issues goes before City Council.