Capp said the City was committed to the wellbeing of horses but acknowledged the economic importance of hosting the Cup parade.
“As a sponsor of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, we’re committed to the wellbeing of horses,” she said.
“It’s clear that the industry needs to do better in terms of animal welfare and we will be monitoring their response to this issue.
“The laws around the welfare of retired racehorses need to be enhanced and better enforced to ensure that unacceptable treatment of such magnificent animals does not continue.”
The Lord Mayor did not say whether she would support Cr Leppert’s motion.
“We take our role as the nation’s major events capital seriously and we’re proud to invest in major events,” she said.
“The Melbourne Cup Carnival injects more than $440 million into our economy and is one of the nation’s biggest events.
“The benefits of this industry are felt right across our state, creating jobs for more than 20,000 staff and contractors.
“Crowds at the Melbourne Cup parade on Monday stretched down Swanston Street. Despite the rain, thousands of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the Cup.”
But Cr Leppert said feedback from his constituents led him to file the motion.
“The time has come. Obviously I’m influenced by the recent [ABC]7.30 report about the sheer extent of cruelty in the horseracing industry and when you consider the Melbourne Cup is the pinnacle of that industry here in Australia, it drives a lot of the culture and pressures that a lot of people are under,” Cr Leppert said.
“Do we want to continue spending rate payers’ funds celebrating horseracing?
“I get lots of correspondence from people saying that we shouldn’t be doing that anymore and I think the tide of history is turning and I want the City Of Melbourne to be on the right side of history.”
Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam has called for whips to be banned, while NSW Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi is campaigning for a royal commission into horse welfare.
VRC chief executive Neil Wilson said the club did not support Cr Leppert’s motion.
“The Victoria Racing Club is critical of any move that hinders the efforts to improve equine welfare or potentially impacts negatively on the livelihoods of the people of Melbourne,” he said.
“The VRC welcomes and values the support of the City of Melbourne in helping to ensure that Victorian retailers continue to benefit from horse racing, attracting a large share of the $31 million spent on accommodation during the Melbourne Cup carnival; the $62.9 million spent in retail (mostly fashion); the $29 million spent on food and beverages; and the $10 million brought into Melbourne and surrounds by the more than 7,000 people who come on cruise liners specifically for the carnival.”
Wilson said the club was taking proactive measures to improve horse welfare.
“The establishment of the VRC equine wellbeing fund has been welcomed by the community as a positive move in addressing horse welfare,” he said.
“The Melbourne Cup carnival provides a major contribution to this fund, with 10 per cent of general admission ticket sales and 5 per cent of VRC annual membership fees put aside towards its establishment.
“While many individuals have quite rightly registered their protest at what they saw on the 7.30 program two weeks ago, most have seen that the best way forward is to support the racing industry in addressing the issue of horse welfare in a proactive manner.”
Damien Ractliffe is the Chief Racing Reporter for The Age.