Lawrence city commissioners gave a downtown horse-and-buggy business free rein for four months Tuesday while city staff and animal rights advocates draw up laws for the business.
"The three main concerns that I'd have are the treatment of the animals, traffic safety and sanitation," Mayor Bob Schulte said. The city has no rules for the carriage-ride trade.
Rob Phillips, president of the Kansas Carriage Co., received a 120-day permit to operate his horse-and-carriage business, which in effect would be a test case for a new ordinance.
"By temporarily permitting, we might uncover some things we want to put in the ordinance. I think this could be a good test," Commissioner Bob Schumm said.
Phillips asked commissioners Tuesday if they wanted to regulate horse-and-buggy operations, just so everyone would understand the ground rules.
"WE WOULD like some guidelines," he said. "I would hate to start something that someone else could come in and do, treat horses inhumanely, and we all would get a black eye."
Phillips, who also is general manager of The Eldridge Hotel, 701 Mass., began offering downtown carriage rides last weekend for sightseeing and romantic interludes.
"We want to add a little more flavor to what already is a great downtown," he said, reeling off a list of bigger cities in which carriage rides are offered.
So far, downtown traffic has not been a problem for the carriage and Patty, the 14-year-old Belgian mare, Phillips said.
"We've found that it's very easy for cars to pass us on Massachusetts (Street)," Phillips said.
THE CARRIAGE features a three-tiered system to ensure Patty doesn't dirty up downtown streets: a bag attached to the horse's backside; another bag attached to the carriage; and ``paper towels and garbage bags'' in the buggy to pick up any droppings not caught.
Phillips also said he would be willing to work with officials from the Lawrence Humane Society, who wanted to help draft rules for the treatment of carriage horses.
"We feel we can work with Mr. Phillips," said Pam Olmstead, vice president of the society's board of directors. "But we think down the line other people could move in and open similar businesses. We feel it should be regulated."
Schumm suggested giving Phillips a temporary permit to offer carriage rides while city staff worked with the Humane Society to create a horse-and-buggy ordinance.
"I DON'T think Mr. Phillips would abuse that privilege," Schumm said. The permit could be extended until the ordinance is in place.
Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of drafting laws to regulate the business.
Though he concurred, the vote disappointed Schulte.
"You think you would want at least one `nay' on this," he said.