By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Tourists love them… animal rights activists don’t.   Still, horse-drawn carriages are a staple of Philadelphia’s historic district.

Now, a city councilman wants to expand their hours of operation to include the afternoon rush hour.

Horse-drawn carriage rides in the historic district have been prohibited during the morning and evening rush hours for many years.  But now Councilman Mark Squilla, whose district includes that area, proposes allowing the rides to take place during the afternoon rush hour period, 3:30pm-6pm, from April through October.

The morning rush hour restriction would remain, as would the afternoon rush hour ban from November through March.

Squilla says the carriage operators need the business, and tourists have asked for it.

“We have a lot of requests from tourists and people who come into the city that it’s a dead time for them, that the carriages are not available.  So we’re going to try it and see how it works,” Squilla tells KYW Newsradio.

And Squilla says this will be done one a trial basis, although he does not believe it will tie up center city traffic.

“Traffic is a lot lighter in the summer time than it is during the winter here in the city of Philadelphia,” he says.  “Therefore we’re going to see what the impact is.  If it is deemed dangerous or it doesn’t work, then we’ll stop it.”

Animal rights activists have long complained that the horses are poorly treated and that the carriage rides should be banned outright.  Squilla and others say they are a vital part of the city’s tourism business.

The regulations that require the horses be taken off the job during extremely hazardous weather (e.g., heat) would remain.

Squilla’s bill will be debated in committee this spring.

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