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End of the ride for Vienna's 'fiakers'?


Animal welfare groups that have long called for a ban on the traditional two-horse carriages that have plied Vienna's streets for over 300 years may have a new ally in Austria's Health and Animal Protection Minister.

The groups have called for eliminating the tourist-popular rides, saying that the stress of operating in a busy modern city is too much for the animals and that they are exposed to excessive heat in the streets. Presently the rules require the horses be taken off the streets when the temperature reaches 35C, or 95F.

Over the objection of fiaker companies, the animal welfare groups are calling for an immediate change to 30C (86F), and for the temperature to be measured in the streets rather than in the cooler stable area.

The Minister, Johannes Rauch, has stated that he would "welcome" a ban on fiakers, saying “You should think about it, really for animal welfare reasons, whether you should expose a horse to this stress... I think that’s a bit outdated.”

Advocates for the operators say there's no proof that the operation is harmful to the horses or that the occasional collapse and death of horses on the streets is actually due to other horse diseases.

Image: Fitchî d’ oridjinne/Wikimedia

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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On our last visit (in 2021) we noticed a new option: sightseeing tours in 'vintage' electric cars. The prices seemed to be roughly on a par with fiaker tours - i.e. expensive (!) - and there were several competing operators. With these you certainly would not need to feel guilty if your transport broke down.

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