The Roman capital has been petitioned to stop "the unjustified exploitation of animals" after a horse collapsed under the load of a tourist carriage.
The incident that triggered the outrage happened on October 17 in a busy shopping street, when the horse stumbled on a metal grate before collapsing in a street full of pedestrians.
Ignoring the concern of onlookers the driver continued on to the Spanish Steps, in spite of being asked to take the animal for a vet's inspection The Observer reported.
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"Subjecting animals to inhumane labour in the name of an anachronistic tradition is animal abuse," said a spokesperson for environmental rights group Alleanza Popolare Ecologista.
"Horses in Rome are forced, against their will, to tow extremely heavy loads on slippery pavements and amid noisy traffic. We ask the mayor, Virginia Raggi, to stop this unjustified exploitation of animals."
An unloaded carriage weighs 800kg, before any tourists step in.
The street cover has previously tripped up other laden horses, however the national agency for animal protection, ENPA, says this does not excuse what happened.
"To make this story even more disturbing is the behaviour of the driver," they said "It was as if nothing had happened, and so the true health of the horse remains a mystery."
The incident was filmed by a bystander Rinaldo Sidoli. Posting images to social media, Sidoli said that it was proof that the city "must urgently approve this measure that can save life to many horses."
Commenting on the number of tourists witnessing the scene, he called it a "slap in the face for the image of the Beautiful country."
Horse-drawn carriages, a popular attraction for couples, are a lucrative tourist business in Rome. Some operators charge as much as 350 euro (or $610) for a couple of hours hire. For many visitors the botticelle, as they are known, are a familiar sight and sound of the Italian capital.
However, there are those with a less Romantic view of the pastime. A succession of mayors have made popular pledges to ban the carts all together. Yet so far the proposed measures are all minor concessions – such as, moving the carriages to city parks and banning tours when temperatures exceed 30C – although these are still not in place.
The incumbent mayor Virginia Raggi led her 2016 campaign with the promise of a carriage ban as part of wider tourism reforms.
Yet ENPA has accused them of being slow to enact any promises, calling the situation facing carriage horses this summer an "emergency".
The condition of the horse involved on Thursday's incident is as yet unknown. However previously horses have collapsed and died while working for carriage drivers. In 2008 a laden horse collapsed and died in front of the Colosseum with another horse dying after being hit by a vehicle, just months earlier. In 2012 police halted a driver after he was seen to beat his horse which had stumbled near the Spanish Steps.
There are currently 32 licences for carriage-tour operators in Rome with around 80 horses working on the streets.
While many tourists still have a rose-tinted view of a horse-drawn ride through Rome, incidents such as last Thursday in a busy street are raising animal welfare concerns for both locals and visitors.