A long line of families queued outside the Griffith Park Pony Rides on Sunday, hoping for one last stroll around the arena track before it closed later this week.
In spite of its imminent shutdown, dozens of the pony rides’ detractors were there too, wielding signs and shouting repeatedly at families: “Shame on you for what you do!”
“We are lending our voices to the animals who can’t speak for themselves,” said Maria Rios, 27, of Riverside, who held a sign that read, “Animals don’t need jobs.”
After more than 70 years in operation, the city of Los Angeles declined to extend the lease of the Griffith Park Pony Rides. The decision followed protests at the attraction by animal welfare activists who claimed the ponies were overworked and neglected. The city subsequently hired a third-party veterinarian to examine the animals; no abuse was found, but some recommendations were made for living conditions and amenities.
As of Wednesday, 25 of the ponies had found new homes. The operator of the attraction, Stephen Weeks, told The Times that the few remaining animals requiring long-term medical care “will probably be going to a sanctuary.”
The reaction from customers to the impending shutdown has been mixed, with some expressing concern for the well-being of the animals and others mourning the end of a Griffith Park tradition that dates to 1948.
A few protested the attraction’s closure Sunday, holding their own signs that begged the city to “Save the pony rides.”
Spencer South, 31, of Koreatown and Stephanie Haney, 47 a Burbank horse trainer, said they believe the activists who helped shut down the pony rides “lack an education” about how horses should be treated.
Haney said that she has rescued horses at horse auctions and that “there is no room at the sanctuaries.” She estimated the annual bill to care for a pony at $15,000, and she said sanctuaries don’t have that kind of the money.