Carriage barn pulled into courtroom
NATCHEZ — The clop of hooves and jangle of wagon chains are a part of Natchez’s historic downtown’s daily soundscape.
However, allegations of unseemly sights and smells that accompany those sounds will take the carriage tour business out of the streets and into the courtroom next month.
Natchez City Animal Control Officer Randy Meyers said he has received approximately a dozen complaints about the Briel Avenue property used to house the horses that pull the carriages for Southern Carriage Tours.
The property holds water, has large piles of manure on it and smells of ammonia from horse urine, he said, and that’s starting to affect some people in the residential area that surrounds it.
“It stinks, and people are complaining about that,” Meyers said.
The city’s code enforcement officer issued a citation for the property, and the matter is slated to go to trial at 2 p.m. March 3 in the city’s environmental court
Southern Carriage Tours owner George Vines said the issue of the drainage on the lot is a combination of heavy rains and the horses stomping down the mud after the rain.
“It has rained probably 40 inches in the past couple of months, and my horse lots are muddy,” he said. “Can you do anything about the rain? If I could, I would shut it off and let it dry up. My horse lot will dry off as soon as it quits.”
Vines said he recently tried to straighten up the lot with a tractor, but it was too muddy to get anything done at the time. His son has a better tractor, Vines said, and he will try to address the drainage soon.
As for the charge of unpleasant smells, Vines said he categorically denies it.
“I can walk in that lot and I can’t smell one thing, and I can smell as well as anybody else,” he said.
While the spaces the eight horses housed on the property stay in are small, Meyers said he has no doubt the animals are well fed and watered.
He also said he does not think the horses’ health is at risk.
“They are tough, but I am sure they are not happy,” he said. “It is still sad to put a horse in that (mud) slop. They like to roll around on the ground and wallow, and they can’t do that on the ground there.”
Vines said the horses’ stalls have a concrete pad.
“The horses can go into that stall anytime they want, but they can also walk out into the mud if they want,” he said. “I don’t think anybody should punish me for the horses walking in mud, because it doesn’t hurt a horse to walk in the mud. I talked to my horse farrier, and he said my horses’ feet were in as good a condition as any.”
Vines said if the lot is shut down, that will be the end of the carriage tour business.
“I have a lot of people who have been writing letters in support of the tours. They want us to stay,” he said. “It is a part of Natchez, we have been doing it so long.”
Meyers said he hopes the issue can be resolved by removing the animal waste and having the ground raised so water no longer stands in the area.
“I want to be clear in that the last thing I want is for him to shut it down,” Meyers said. “I know in other places — like New York City — they have stopped doing horse carriages, but that’s not our goal here. I just want him to clean his act up for the horses’ sake and for the city’s sake.”