ANIMAL WATCH - After over 70 years of providing pony rides and parties for the children of Los Angeles, a targeted-campaign by a newly-formed non-profit group, to close the Griffith Park Pony Rides apparently influenced Councilman Paul Koretz and his City Council colleagues that this historic experience for children is cruelty to animals.
This is despite the City-selected outside veterinary expert finding the conditions at Pony Rides to be satisfactory and stating she did not witness any gross violations related to the care or the treatment of the animals. There was also concern about six horses being transferred to another facility and the deaths of four others (possibly due to age). Most of the ponies are between 20 and 30 years old.
The City seems focused on the fact that the paperwork has not been kept up to its satisfaction, and for about a year activists have been picketing for closure—not on specific violations. (This should alarm any business owner in the City of Los Angeles.)
Conversely, L.A. Animal Services’ horrendous violations of animal care have been ignored by the City after two years of documented humane complaints by experienced volunteers and the public.
Koretz did not express any interest in having an independent veterinarian inspect and report on the L.A. Animal Services shelters, where multiple dogs and cats and other animals are crammed into unsuitable cages, constant fighting occurs due to overcrowding, shelters wreaking of the smell of diarrhea, and floors are covered with feces and urine.
Yet, Angelenos are told in weekly advertising and e-mail blasts that LAAS shelters are the ideal places to bring youngsters to adopt a family pet.
There is something wrong with this picture and the values of those in political leadership of the City of Los Angeles!
PONY RIDES WILL END ON DECEMBER 21
In a December 8 interview with the L.A. Times, owner Stephen Weeks emphasized that he is now putting his effort into finding homes for over 30 ponies, since the City has decided not to renew his contract and he will close the business on December 21.
Last year, apparently even before it was incorporated, a petition that was circulated in the name of the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals called for a citywide ban on commercial pony rides.
One person, Zhoura Fahim, has publicly represented the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals in this effort to assure that pony rides are removed from the City of Los Angeles and making exaggerated, alarmist claims of horses being dangerous to children.
Here is the petition that was circulated by this group to be submitted to the Council and Mayor, asking that it be used for a City proclamation:
WHEREAS, the City of Los Angeles protects the lives of children who live and visit within the City;
WHEREAS, horses and ponies carry communicable diseases;
WHEREAS, petting zoo animals endure high stress during handling;
WHEREAS, horses and pony rides pose immense safety risk to children;
THEREFORE, the City of Los Angeles condemns the use of horses and ponies to provide entertainment to children;
I, the undersigned, as a resident of the City of Los Angeles or I routinely visit the City of Los Angeles, I have read the petition, and I ask the City Council to adopt an ordinance consistent with the petition.
Communicable diseases that are allegedly a risk to children from pony rides are listed as: Commonly transmitted from horses to humans. Dermatophilosis…This enters the body through an abrasion, insect bite, or laceration. Lack of safety gear (helmet), and saddle not properly adjusted appropriately on child has proven to cause broken bones and bodily damage.
It is unknown exactly how many signatures were obtained and whether there was any verification of residency.
“LOS ANGELES ALLIANCE FOR ANIMALS” IS NOT IN L.A. (ACCORDING TO CA SECRETARY OF STATE)
There has been only one person identified in leadership of this protest: Zhoura Fahim, who is shown on Google as a resident of Escondido in San Diego County.
A very recently formed 501(c)3 was filed under this name just a few months ago, on 9/20/22, according to CA Secretary of State records -- with contact information listed at a PO Box in Carlsbad, CA (in San Diego County), and a principal agent address in Sacramento, CA. (Statement of Information has until 12/19/2022 to be filed.)
An internet check for Zhoura Fahim, shows a current residence address in Escondido, not far from Carlsbad and both in San Diego.
There is no website identified, but the group has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
LA PONY-RIDE LETTERS FROM DALLAS-FORTWORTH, TX?
And, the following appears on DALLAS FORT WORTH ANIMAL RIGHTS’ facebook page, asking readers/members to merely insert their name and hit a button to send this e-mail addressed to L.A. Mayor Garcetti and Councilmember Raman:
“ACTION ALERT: ITS ALL HANDS ON DECK as the ongoing issue of neglect and abuse at Griffith Park and Ride Pony continues. ….
Today, please send the below email to Councilmember Nithya Raman's office …
Dear Council member Nithya Raman,
I am reaching out to strongly urge you to place a ban on pony rides, as the neglect and abuse at Griffith Park and Pony Rides have been occurring since 2016. … Moreover, the animals at Griffith Park and Ride Pony are treated unkind, inhumane, and are neglected. A recent undercover investigation revealed the horses and ponies on the turnstile did not receive water for almost seven hours. The workers were seen drinking water more often than these beautiful animals. … District 4 is better than this, and I urge you to ban pony rides. …”
This e-mail is identified only by address, not by geographic location.
THE END OF AN ERA
Griffith Park Pony Rides, which opened in 1948 and also features a petting zoo, will permanently close on Dec. 21, owner Steve Weeks announced Sunday on Facebook. Weeks said that the City of Los Angeles decided not to renew his business’ contract.
Stephen Weeks described himself as a retired horse owner who wanted to provide the opportunity for children in Los Angeles to become familiar with horses and develop a love for them.
“In the days ahead I will be attempting to find forever homes for our many ponies,” Weeks wrote on Facebook. “I am determined to find homes for our ponies with qualified horse-people who will care as much about our ponies as I do.”
There was no indication of what would happen to the long-time staff which cared for the horses and have emotional attachments to them.
In a statement Sunday, the Department of Recreation and Parks confirmed its decision to not extend the attraction’s contract, without an explanation of why.
L.A. RESIDENTS OPPOSE CLOSING PONY RIDES
Six months ago, on 6/30/2022, a Los Angeles resident named Cristalle Linn wrote a touching public letter of opposition to the Council file, which stated:
There is a petition being circulated to close down ALL the horse and pony rides and petting zoos in L.A.County. Please EDUCATE yourselves before falling for it! Please read the petition before signing it – It states that horse and ponies carry disease and are a danger to children (which has nothing to do with the treatment of animals), but they are marketing it as animal welfare. There is NO plan set up to rehome or case for any of the animals that could be displaced by this! There is no empathy for the people working there who will also lose their jobs. They just want to shut it all down – How does that help any animals?! The petition is very poorly written yet people are falling for it. They are getting closer to 100,000 signatures. Don’t be fooled.
They cannot seem to figure out if the animals are a nuisance or victims of abuse. There is obviously another agenda here: This seems to be coming from a place of bitterness, not altruism. Notice there is no thought or mention of what happens to the displaced animals; there is no plan here to make their lives better. They really don’t care, they just want to “shut it all down.” This is not realistic and shows a total lack of empathy.
Let’s support The Griffith Park Pony Rides and work with the City to try to make working animals’ lives better, instead of just making them homeless!
MORE PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THE PONY RIDES IGNORED
Joseph McDonald (who identified himself as “Wilshire Park,” wrote the following Council comment on 12/06/2022:
“I am aghast and deeply disappointed about the horrible news that the City of Los Angeles has decided to unilaterally close the Griffith Park Pony Rides, without any meaningful public input, before the holidays!
The pony rides have been an instrumental part of my child’s upbringing. We held his 3rd birthday party there and it was magical. The Griffith Park Pony Rides were the only thing open during the pandemic They provided a light at the end of a very dark tunnel. To close them would be an epic show of disloyalty to the families who followed Covid-19 guidance to the T and to a business that provided relief to children and scared parents during a very dark time. Not to mention that the caring staff will now be out of a job.
During the pandemic, the staff cleaned the saddles after every use and patiently attended the animal and families for an enjoyable experience. It gave us something to hold on to when everything else was still closed.
It is also an important way to foster a healthy respect for animals. My 6-year-old’s favorite pony is named Freckles. We asked to ride Freckles every time we went. But many times, Freckles was on break or even give the day off to rest. The facility is always closed during excessive weather and rides are routinely paused for all the animals to have a break. I have no doubt in my mind that these beloved ponies are well taken care of.
The rest of the City should not be held hostage to Zara Fahim and her small, but loud group that has resorted to terrorist tactics in the effort to pursue their aims. We are encouraged to stay calm in the face of their abuse. The children and parents were routinely called “killers.” I assure that we were not aware that this beloved and HISTORIC attraction was in danger.
The group clearly had access to staff who made the decision behind closed doors. I strongly encourage you to rethink this misguided decision and keep this valuable institution open.”
WHERE WILL THE PONIES GO?
The myth of “sanctuaries” where thousands of animals live in peace and luxury for the rest of their lives is fantasy. Feeding and caring for animals is a science and is expensive and developing a relationship with an elderly animal is a special skill.
Additionally, the reality is that the effects of ‘retirement’ from the work and social life that these ponies experience could be detrimental to them. They have been petted and hugged by hundreds of children and stroked by caretakers and by parents who are for a few moments taken back to their own childhood.
Just as working dog breeds need a purpose or they can be destructive, when horses are bored they can engage in cribbing that can cause a host of medical problems including colic.
At the advanced age and with decline in health and fitness ahead, who will take this many ponies and be able to afford the costs that will be incurred?
We have to pray that none will end up in the lucrative and pervasive horse-slaughter industry at our borders.
TERRORISM CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO RULE L.A. AGAIN
Animal Rights Group Protest Outside Councilmember Nithya Raman's Office was quoted during a protest on October17, 2022, as stating:
“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.
Families complained of being frightened by protesters at pony rides.
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.”
Less than 20 years ago, Los Angeles city officials tried to appease an animal rights group connected with ALF (Animal Liberation Front), which appeared at community and Mayoral events and threatened the safety of those present.
They became so bold as to tag homes and property of City employees and threatened an Assistant City Attorney by e-mail advising her they knew where her son went to school. Innocent public citizens and City workers lived in fear for themselves and their families and neighbors. See: Prosecutor Charges L.A. Animal Activists - Los Angeles Times.
These violent and radical activists went to homes and public events where City officials appeared, interrupting the Mayor, pouring red paint on their property to represent the killing of animals and alarming neighbors. (See: Examining Extremism: Violent Animal Rights Extremists.)
The City Council and Mayor of Los Angeles need to set the values for this City and uphold them. They must honor the spoken and unspoken contract with anyone who opens or maintains a business in Los Angeles.
How can they be so gullible as to take unverified information from an “organization” with an adapted name and headed by one activist who lives two counties away and use it to shut down what is to many a treasured part of our local culture?
All while they continue to ignore the very real and frequently corroborated tragic conditions at Los Angeles Animal Services shelters and their obligation to the abandoned animals of this city. Just because those animals cannot speak or protest doesn’t mean they don’t cry. There is no excuse to allow them to continue suffering while politically motivated non-issues get immediate attention.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)