By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A City Council committee was not horsing around this morning when its members approved the first-ever regulations on keeping a horse as a pet in Philadelphia.

The new rules were prompted by what officials say is a growing number of complaints about horses being kept as pets and without proper sanitary provisions.

Brian Abernathy, president of the city’s animal care and control team, says, “There’s dozens of cases a year. I’m not going to pretend it’s a widespread problem.  But when it is a problem, it becomes a very serious problem, and we don’t have very many tools to deal with it.”

Under the regulations, horse owners would need to keep the animal on at least one-quarter acre of land per horse, an exercise program must be in place for the horse, and they must clean up after the horse daily.

Councilman Bill Greenlee says this is not as tough on horse owners as other cities. He also says, “Some cities have actually banned the ownership of horses in the city. We’re not there. We’re trying to find the middle ground, to make sure they’re not problems for the community.”

The regulations do not apply to existing, licensed stables in the city. The bill now goes to the full Council for a final vote, as early as next week. Mayor Michael Nutter supports the measure as well.