Amish & Non-Amish Residents Speak At Buggy Regulations Meeting

Accompanied by their attorney, Amish shared their views on proposed regulations at a standing-room-only supervisors’ meeting in Washington Township (Lycoming County, PA) Monday. Township officials and other residents voiced their views as well.

At issue are 3 proposed new requirements for Amish buggies:

  1. Horse diapers to prevent manure falling on roadways
  2. Rubber horseshoes to prevent damage to roadways
  3. 4-inch-high numbering on all four sides of Amish vehicles (front, back, both sides) so that vehicles who violate new regulations can be identified and their owners fined

Here are some of the arguments voiced on both sides, as reported by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette.

Prior to this meeting, local Methodist pastor Mike Hill had urged both sides to remain calm:

“Unfortunately you have two cultures clashing,” Hill said. “Each believes they are right. It is causing people to take sides.”

“Don’t let anger control” is the message Hill wished to convey to his parishioners at Sunday service.

Pro-regulation arguments

First, from the pro-regulation side. Township leadership says it is about safety and public health:

Township supervisors Kenneth J. Bashista, chairman, George J. Ulrich and Ray LaForme said they have a health and safety crisis on their hands — piles of horse manure, modified jagged metal horseshoes digging up road surfaces to be replaced with rubber and reflectors and registration of carriages and buggies.

One resident says that it can be dangerous for motorcycle riders (referring I believe to road damage caused by horseshoes):

Dick Secules, who rides a motorcycle, said he had to swerve into the other lane, which could have caused a head on collision or forced him to drive onto the berm.

“It’s life-threatening,” Secules said.

Secules, who owns an automotive garage, also says the manure is a health threat his business encounters when doing regular maintenance tasks, including tire changes and inspections. Township solicitor Douglas N. Engelman says that manure stuck to vehicles can get into people’s garages and homes.

There is a lot of manure on the roads, according to some residents:

One man who lives in the 1200 block of Gap Road said he counted 16 piles of horse manure on a short drive from his house.

A letter read aloud by a supervisor indicated there were 21 piles of manure found from his residence along Route 44 to Elimsport on Sunday.

One man suggested that the Amish bring along a shovel when traveling, and clean the manure. The article says this is “a practice Amish do when they notice it.”

From the Amish side

Next, arguments from the Amish side. An Amish farrier discussed the negative horse health effects of rubber horseshoes:

Jacob Zook, a farrier, said rubber shoes would cause the horses to go out of balance.

“They’d be off gait,” he said.

He suggested a type of smooth steel that does not dig into the road.

Zook noted how rubber draws on heat.

“It takes the life out of the foot,” he said. “Leads to shin issues and scar tissue.”

The attorney for the Amish, Clifford Rieders, argued that the proposed ordinances were discriminatory, and suggested the Amish had made positive economic contributions to the area:

Rieders stated, “This is blatant discrimination against the Amish who have turned rundown farms in Washington Township into beautifully manicured tracts. “They simply want to be left alone in their traditional way of life.”

Amish came out to the meeting in large numbers, with the meeting described as having “Amish community members standing along a wall and some unable to make it into the packed social hall.” You can see this in the above photo, or even better in the larger version on the Post-Gazette site.

Finally, the article quotes “one of the Elders” (I assume they mean someone from the ministry, or maybe just an older adult male), who said “The Old Order Amish community is prepared to fight this if they have to.”

Unclear penalties?

If the proposed regulations go through as-is, violations would be fined according to the following:

The ordinances carry various fines of between $50 to $1,000 for initial violation regarding the continuing use of metal horseshoes without rubberized bottoms to $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.

Not bagging the horse can draw a fine of $50 to $1,000 and $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.

Not registering a carriage and putting on reflectors and a 4-inch tall number can result in a fine of $100 to $1,000 and $500 to $1,000 for a second violation.

I noticed there is quite a range of possibility in the charges.

An “initial violation” for using metal horseshoes, or failing to “bag” the horse could be $50…or it could be 20 times as much ($1,000).

It’s unclear how the actual amount would be determined. Who decides? Would it depend on how blatant the violation was? The size of the manure pile? The mood of whoever is doing the enforcement that day?

Maybe this means they are proposing this range now, and would set a fixed initial violation penalty when it comes to voting on the ordinance.

Negotiation tactics?

Engelman says he would like a compromise, and “alluded” that they may make changes to the proposals, after reviewing residents’ oral and written feedback.

A neighboring township, Brady, seems to also be considering such regulations, but is in the “wait and see” phase now.

The plan is to reach a decision possibly by September (or perhaps later). This depends on whether all sides can meet.

Based on the comments from the township solicitor, this might be a case of negotiating by asking for more than one expects to get, and landing somewhere in the middle.

Could these proposals simply be a way to get Amish to take further action on their own?

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    1. Liz

      marking on buggy

      If lettering becomes a requirement on Buggies, then license plates be required on all vehicles on roads, including motorcycles and all cars, Also, it should be required that all drivers have the experience of driving a buggy. And, all motorcycles be quiet including Harley Davidson motorcycles. HD signature is their loud mufflers which startle horses.

      More than once I have ridden near or on a road where the vehicle drivers think nothing of beeping their horns, rushing up and tailgating my horses. And, these roads were marked with trail rider crossings.

    2. Jennifer Mynatt

      Leave them alone

      Leave these people alone. They hurt nobody. They are hard-working people that just want to live a peaceful life. The Englishers just want to make rules for everybody that doesn’t fit their lifestyle.

    3. Maureen


      Rubber horse shoes indeed change a horses gate. In addition they cause a horse to slip and slide; not at all conducive to any horse, nevertheless horses that pull. Just think of the danger pulling up and down an incline. Plain dangers and should never be considered as an alternative to save-a-road.

      Where there is Amish population as well as farm tractors, road-clean-machines should be secured. Highway departments all have them — they are truck like machines operated by a driver that dispenses cleaner, scrub, and suck up the dirt, oil, sand, and mud from the roads. These machines should be purchased and put into effect where horse and buggy, cow crossing, and farm machines use the roads. Diapers on a horse is just a violation of common dignity to an animal that does nothing but provide assistance to humans.

    4. Paula Scott

      Let them live their lives

      Even though I live in Texas, I have been to Shipshewana, IN many times. They drive their buggies and no one that I know of abuses the laws. There are piles of horse manure on the side of the roads and everyone driving a motor vehicle do not bother the horse driven buggies. They have a right to live their lives just as the rest of us do. So if you have to drive around a buggy and wait for traffic to clear, you do it as you should have been taught in drivers ed! Maybe vehicles should have what you are asking of the buggies, put very large plates on all sides of the car or truck, motorcycles should be forced to put the same plates on all sides of them! To me this is blatant discrimination against the Amish!

    5. robert

      new regulations

      Automobiles and motorcycles are the primary source of air, water and noise pollution. All motor vehicles will eventually drop gas, coolant and oils onto the roads which pollute water resources. Motor vehicles kill tens of thousands every year. The processing of the resources to make these vehicles pollutes the air and waters world wide and is the major source of conflict to control these resources which leads to the deaths of thousands of innocents and our own solders. Yet those that own these vehicles feel they are entitled to legislate others out of their way.

      1. Sandra KO

        Good point, Robert!

    6. Do unto others

      I’d be willing to bet that those English who are in favor of discriminating against the Amish own SUVs that burn tons of CO2 producing fuel and quite often leak oil and other fluids on the roads…and own at least one dog which they walk several times a day, allowing them to deficate and urinate on their neighbors lawns and driveways without giving a thought to picking the feces up. I’ll bet also that they don’t know that dog feces is hundreds of times more toxic than a little manure. Also, the diseases caused by canines are often fatal. No such equine diseases exist.

      Also, the detritus, i.e. blown tires, pieces of plastic bumpers, glass, on roads left by vehicles, not being organic, will remain for decades if not removed. Contrarily, mother nature will take care of any and all manure deposited on road surfaces.

      This message only addresses one of the complaints certain English have regarding the Amish in specific areas of Lycoming County. I will, if pressed, elaborate on the other complaints.

    7. Let the amish live their life

      One thing we must not forget horses were on the road before cars were ever invented now we must leave these amish people alone they are good people

    8. James gas

      Sad tale of over regulation.

      It is really sad to read about this controversy. People want beautiful farm lands and open spaces, but the English go to great lengths to destroy this. Upstate NY had attracted many Amish groups that are trying to escape the woes of urbanization in Pennsylvania.

    9. Update(?) - proposals "put on hold"

      This article uses the language that they have put a hold on the proposals, though it seems to offer the same information about a September target date and the hope that all sides can meet to discuss the matter.

      From the article:

      Little was said about a third ordinance that would require the registration of carriages and buggies and township Solicitor Douglas N. Engelman said it might go away.

      He told the crowd there would be no vote on the ordinances until the September meeting at the earliest, leaving time to meet with the Amish and their attorney, Clifford A. Rieders, to work on a compromise.

      “I hope we can work it out with the Amish,” he said, holding out the possibility the ordinances that address health and safety issues could be modified.

      “We’re happy to sit down and talk this out,” Rieders said. “There is enough hate in this world.”

    10. Bill nichols


      Please leave the amish alone about such trivial matters and pay attention to what we are doing as a nation

    11. Sandra KO


      It would seem to be common sense to have experts on road building and veterinarians who specialize in good horse leg/hoof practices research the problem and give an educated opinion.

      Horses need traction on a road to safely pull a buggy. Is there a road surface that will better accommodate the shoes horse need to have to pull their load safely for all concerned.

      It makes sense that all modes of transportation have license plates. This includes bicycles and lawn tractors, as well as all motorized vehicles. And, yes, buggy-driving tests — administered by select Amish people in the community seems wise … just as there should be road tests for bicyclists, no matter the age. Further, there should be some way to identify and report drivers of motorized vehicles who abuse their privileges of using a public road by being rude or otherwise exhibiting dangerous driving behaviors.

    12. Stephen

      Time for the Amish to start voting!!!

      It seems inevitable that the lack of community involvement by the Amish and Mennonites would lead to a situation like this. It’s high time they realize that situations like this will continue to come about when they stick their heads in the sand when their neighbors are voting in those who believe that everyone should live according to their restrictive ideas. The Amish have been using horse and buggies forever. I’d like to know exactly who contracted what disease from horse poop in the road, along with documentation of the event. I doubt anyone ever has. In fact I know of many people who like to scoop up horse droppings on the road to use in their gardens. Maybe we should ban manure in gardens also. And only allow fertilizer made from known toxic petrochemicals.
      How idiotic would that be!!!
      I’d say as idiotic as those trying to use scare tactics to enslave those who are trying to stay separate from the insanity of the world.