OPINION: Supposed do-gooders should stop horsing around in Sacramento

I was originally going to write about the controversy over the attempt to ban the horse carriage rides in Old Sacramento, but after speaking with Robert Whitaker, spokesperson for Working Animal Advocates, about his organization’s protests and attempts to ban the carriage ride, I want to address a tangential issue to the debate. An issue which I have not seen addressed in any of the other articles and news stories on the controversy.

The issue I want to address is the honesty in the debate of the group known as Working Animal Advocates and whether what they are doing is truly related to the well-being of the horses who pull the Old Sac horse carriages or if they have other, more truer, motives.

The group’s website, Facebook page, etc. all claim that it is a loose coming together of concerned individuals in the San Francisco, Sacramento, and North California area who are upset by the inhumane treatment of the horses which pull the carriages seen in the Old Sac and downtown area. Mr. Whitaker confirms this, and when asked, stated that it is not affiliated with any other group nor has any other agenda. Yet their Facebook page is full of articles on what appears to be a collection of similar efforts in other cities and also attempts to go after zoos, circuses, etc. The group’s website on its Campaigns page, clearly advocates contacting mayors and council members in other cities that have similar carriage rides to seek to enact bans in those locations also.

Mr. Whitaker, when asked about the goals of the organization, states that it “seeks to make sure that the existing codes be enforced appropriately, and failing that, seek an outright ban on the the carriage rides”. This sounds noble and is something that makes sense. No one on any side of this issue wants to see the animals suffer needlessly. Yet when questioned further, Mr. Whitaker admits that his group has not met with nor asked for meeting with the Sacramento Police Department nor Animal Control to discuss educating officers in both departments on the proper enforcement of the ordinances covering the operation of the horse-drawn carriages on Sacramento streets.

Mr. Whitaker also concedes that his organization has not met with nor attempted to meet with the owners/operators of the carriages to work with them. He also failed to acknowledge the efforts to make changes in areas by the people in charge of the historic district to make sure the existing rules are complied with and even improved. Reading the website and Facebook page of Working Animal Advocates, one finds no mention of these efforts to improve the working conditions for the horses.

It is interesting to note that when pressed by this writer about the group’s responsibility to meet with the leadership of the historic district, the operators of the rides, and the relevant city department, Mr. Whitaker seems to feel that it is NOT part of their responsibility. It is merely their responsibility to point out the faults in the system and turn it over to the City of Sacramento to deal with the problems. Perhaps the group is so busy shouting and protesting that they don’t have the time to actually do something constructive.

Perhaps they should heed the advice of The Christophers: “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness!” If they are truly interested in working for the benefit of the animals in question and not looking to make a political statement or become publicity-seeking crazies like PETA, Working Animal Advocates should move its focus from seeking to ban the horse-drawn carriage rides which are a major and family-friendly attraction here in Sacramento and spend more time working with those involved to address any shortcomings in the current system.


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