Tuxedo’s Lady, a pony that died in a blaze at Graceland Stables a month ago. *File photo by Ras Mykkal
Tuxedo’s Lady, a pony that died in a blaze at Graceland Stables a month ago. *File photo by Ras Mykkal

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7: Most commercial horse stables in Bermuda do not have a fire alarm system in place, according to government experts.

Environmental protection bosses say many stables have not complied with fire regulations that were brought in more than six years ago because of “cost and perceived ineffectiveness”.

The news comes just a month after three horses died in a blaze at the Graceland Stables in Paget.

Although Graceland Stables is not classified as a ‘commercial’ stable, the fire has prompted the SPCA to call for a complete review of the regulations governing the island’s stables.

Bosses from the animal charity said: “The SPCA has repeatedly asked to be included in annual licensing inspections, planning applications and the granting of leases, involving animals, but so far we have not had any success in this.

“This is most unfortunate as it is the SPCA which then has to deal with the animals suffering because of poor decision making or a lack of enforcement by other agencies

“This may be a good time to review all of the pertinent regulations and get all relevant agencies together to ensure that horses on the island get the care and protection they deserve.”

A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection added: “The Department recognizes that fire alarm compliance in commercial stables is an issue.

“We also recognize that it has become increasingly difficult for stable owners to afford the installation of these systems in the face of hard economic times.

“Shutting down stables is not a viable option because it jeopardizes the employment of those who work at/operate commercial stables as well as the safety of the horses as there is simply not enough alternate stable space available in Bermuda.

“Department staff will be continuously monitoring the situation to ensure that full compliance is achieved when the impacted stable operators are able to do so.”

The Governement statement added: “All commercial horse stables are subject to inspection, and a commercial stable is one where the business of keeping horses for breeding, boarding, hire, driving or riding instruction, in exchange for payment, is conducted.

“Contrary to public comments made, Graceland Stables is not a commercial stable.

“No site visit occurred, as there were no complaints received nor an invitation/request from the owner. Throughout 2011, vet visits occurred at 10 commercial stables sites. One of those chose not to seek a license.”

Unsound and unsafe

SPCA bosses told the Sun that the charity had investigated several cases of private stables being built with no planning approval that were ‘unsound and not safe for horses’.

The charity added: “Poor maintenance, poor hygiene, poor animal husbandry all lead to problems for animals housed in these facilities.

“Many of these places are also overcrowded with some horses not having adequate space or shelter from the elements.

“Many have no paddock space so in the event of an emergency there is nowhere for the animals to be placed safely.”

Fire chief, Vince Hollinsid, said: “The fire service has surveyed all commercial stables and have made recommendations based on the operations and conditions found at each premise.”

The Bermuda Sun tried to contact several of the larger commercial stables for comment, however few returned our calls.

Karl Terceira, who runs Terceira’s Stables in Devonshire, said: “I would say it was  ‘all’ rather than just ‘most’ commercial stables that do not have a fire alarm system. It comes down to economics really. I don’t think there are any stables that can afford it.”