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LOS ANGELES — Animal rights activists are raising new concerns about the horses kept for pony rides at Griffith Park after the animals were seen outside getting rained on in cold temperatures Dec. 27, but the operator of the pony ride facility says the horses had access to shelter and chose to stand outside.
Los Angeles Alliance for Animals circulated video from the facility, another in a series of rainy days recently in the Southland. The activists said it was around 50 degrees when the video was taken, with temperatures at Griffith Park expected to drop to 43 degrees overnight.
However, Griffith Park Pony Rides told City News Service that its horses are “well cared for, respected and loved.”
“Let’s all remember, horses are not like dogs and cats,” owner Stephen Weeks said. “For thousands of years horses have lived outside in both rain and shine. Horses are healthier outside in their natural element. They are herd animals. The Griffith Park Ponies have adapted to living in an outdoor environment for many years, and are very healthy.”
Weeks added that “out of an abundance of caution we do provide barn shelter for our ponies who are older or may feel the effects of the inclement weather more so than others. For example, tonight we have a third of our ponies enclosed in the barn.
“We have eight separate outside corrals for our ponies. Each corral has an overhead metal roof to protect them from the rain should they choose to go under there. No pony goes without rain protection,” Weeks said. “They choose where they are most comfortable. Not all choose to stand under a roof.”
The pony rides business has been a point of contention for animal advocates. Last month, 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 the alliance.
“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,” the motion, co-introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz and Councilwoman Nithya Raman, said.
Griffith Park is in Raman’s district.
According to the council members, the parks department and the Department of Animal Services have gone to the facility multiple times for inspections and have not found violations. However, activists have staged small protests outside the facility and allege that horses are overworked and that one is suffering from gait issues.
The Department of Recreation and Parks will 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 are 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.
The Los Angeles Alliance for Animals 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,” 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. “Unkind treatment of animals doesn’t align with Los Angeles values.”