A group of animal rights activists is once again raising concerns about the horses kept for pony rides at Griffith Park, complaining that the animals are forced to work even when temperatures soar into the 90s.
Los Angeles Alliance for Animals plans a demonstration at the park Sunday to demand that the city of Los Angeles cancel the contract of the concessionaire and pass an ordinance banning pony rides.
The group has railed against the pony-ride operation for months, holding regular demonstrations at the park. Activists noted that horse rides continued Saturday, when the high reached 93 degrees at Griffith Park.
“In a city that prides itself on the highest standards of animal welfare, we must immediately end animal abuse when we witness it. Which is why we have protested for months to bring light to the suffering of the animals at this park,” an LAAA statement said.
“For the first time in over 70 years, Los Angeles Alliance for Animals has become the voice of the neglected and abused animals at this park, and we will never go away. We will maintain our weekly protest bringing awareness to the plight and suffering of the animals at this park,” the statement continued.
Griffith Park Pony Rides owner Steve Weeks blamed the protesters for causing trouble at the attraction, telling City News Service that some activists use amplification devices and sirens that “scares the children and the ponies.”
Representatives for both GPPR and animal rights groups say there have been multiple fights at the pony rides in recent months between demonstrators and customers, including on Saturday.
“The protesters’ goal is for their efforts to make a beloved Los Angeles attraction for families an uncomfortable environment and it has to stop immediately,” said a representative for GPPR.
A member of the protest group said parents threw sodas at them on Saturday, and added that one demonstrator was trampled, punched and had his camera broken.
Weeks also told CNS that the pony rides recently passed a “vigorous inspection” ordered by Los Angeles officials months ago.
“The company was asked to update some record keeping as well as schedule more regular maintenance by their farrier. Any issues that were addressed in that report were immediately complied with,” Weeks said.
Late last year, two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion to have the Department of Recreation and Parks report on the findings of a third-party assessment of the facility, after complaints from LAAA.
“Over the last few months, the city has received numerous concerns regarding the health and well-being of the horses at the Griffith Park Pony Ride Facility,” stated the motion, co-introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz and Councilwoman Nithya Raman (Griffith Park is in Raman’s district).
The Department of Recreation and Parks was directed to have a third-party equestrian expert assess the facility and report to the council on its policies and practices to ensure the horses are being well cared for.
Weeks said in a letter sent to Raman that the activists were falsely alleging that the ponies are overworked.
“All of our ponies and farm animals are under the direct care of a licensed veterinarian and are up-to-date on all of their required medical shots and inoculations. We are regularly inspected by the city and county of Los Angeles to assure the safe and humane treatment of every animal,” the group’s website states.
LAAA claims that animal welfare laws are consistently ignored by the pony ride operator and are not enforced by Parks and Recreation, Los Angeles Animal Services or the Los Angeles Police Department.
“The pony rides concession is animal cruelty disguised as child entertainment. Unkind treatment of animals doesn’t align with Los Angeles values,” the group says, noting that in recent years Los Angeles has passed a fur ban, a bull hook ban, and a ban on the use of wild animals in private parties.
As for the issue of hot temperatures in the park, “We have a protocol that we close the pony rides if the temperatures hits 95 degrees,” Weeks said. “Last night on the news, we heard that the warmest part of the day would happen in the afternoon. As such, we shut down at 1 p.m. Of course this has always been our policy.”