Comedian Michael Pritchard, armed with 17,028 signatures, Wednesday led a horseback charge on City Hall to save the nation's second-oldest mounted patrol from budget cuts.
"We have to now speak for the horses," Pritchard said. "And as Mr. Ed would say, 'Weee're ready to take on the maaayor.' "
Jokes aside, Pritchard and other supporters of the city's 114-year-old Mounted Patrol Unit say it is important to save a tradition that also provides an important function in policing parks and controlling crowds during demonstrations.
The petitions, gathered in three weeks, are aimed at putting a non-binding policy statement on the November ballot to persuade the city to maintain the mounted patrol. The only older police horse unit in the country is in New York City, which began three years earlier in 1871.
San Francisco Police Sgt. Ed Edney, a nine-year veteran of the mounted patrol, said the unit has been trimmed to 21 horses and 14 officers, down from 30 horses and 21 officers a few years ago.
For this year, at least, the mounted patrol is safe from the budget-cutters, but its future remains uncertain.