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LOS ANGELES — The Griffith Park pony rides will close later this month, after 74 years of operation, officials said Dec. 4.
The Griffith Park Pony Rides and Petting Zoo is set to close Dec. 21 after the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks decided not to extend its contract, the department announced on its website.
“You have all followed our fight against these few radical animal rights activists,” owner Steve Weeks said on Facebook. “Despite our year long fight to answer the untrue statements of these individuals, our efforts were not heard. This was the city decision and not the pony rides choice.”
Weeks said his focus now is on the future of the ponies. “In the days ahead I will be attempting to find forever homes for our many ponies,” he said. “I am determined to find homes for our ponies with qualified horse people who will care as much about our ponies as I do.”
The announcement was welcomed by at least one animal rights group.
“We are grateful that the city has taken the appropriate steps to close Griffith Park Pony Rides and Petting Zoo down,” said Zohra Fahim of the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals. “Animal abuse and animal cruelty don’t align with the values of Angelenos.”
The Department of Recreation and Parks promised to put the vacated space to good use.
“At the request of the City Council, the department will undertake a community-input process to reimagine the recreational and educational activities offered at this location in Griffith Park to continue providing youth and families an affordable and enjoyable experience,” the department said on its website.
“We extend our gratitude to the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks for its decision to not renew its contract with Griffith Parks Pony Rides,” said Scott Beckstead, director of campaigns at the Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action. “The ponies deserve better than being forced to work long hours carrying children around a track, often in extreme heat, and often deprived of access to shade, water, and food.
“The attraction also sent a problematic message to children, that animals should be forced to work, including in adverse conditions, for the sake of their amusement.”
Beckstead and an equine welfare specialist testified on multiple occasions at hearings held by city officials to determine the park’s future, including at a meeting of the Department of Recreation and Parks held Dec. 1.
In Defense of Animals claimed victory in the department’s decision.
“We’re thrilled that the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has addressed concerns raised by over 1,000 In Defense of Animals supporters, actress Richa Moorjani, and the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals,” said Lisa Levinson of In Defense of Animals. “Ending this pony ride and petting zoo contract sets a positive precedent and ends a bygone era of treating animals as commodities without considering their emotional and physical well being.
“Now is the perfect time to switch all city parks to non-animal entertainment models,” she added. “Many options are available, including environmental education, where families can learn how to respect and care for native plants and animals within the park. We urge the Griffith Park Pony Rides and Petting Zoo to send its previously working animals to a sanctuary.”