If you’re a native Angeleno, chances are you’ve got photos of yourself as a child riding one of the horses from the Griffith Park pony rides. The attraction has been a rite of passage and an LA staple for more than 70 years.
On December 22, the tradition will come to an end. The Department of Recreation and Parks is not extending the attraction’s contract, following an outcry from animal rights activists over the animals’ treatment.
Video from last year that was taken by Los Angeles Alliance for Animals leader Zohra Fahim shows neglect and abuse of the ponies. The city did not confirm whether the controversy prompted the decision not to renew the contract.
Animal welfare activists celebrated the decision. They’d like to see a ban on pony rides citywide. Some parents expressed disappointment, saying the rides were a great way for children to interact with animals.
There are still many humane attractions that allow children and animals to interact in the LA area. These include the STAR Ecostation in Culver City, the Wildlife Learning and Conservation Center in Sylmar and The Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita. Other venues like Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark still offer pony rides.
Griffith Park Pony Rides owner Steve Weeks — who has always denied allegations of animal mistreatment — is now searching for the ponies’ next “forever home.”
“I am determined to find homes for our ponies with qualified horse-people who will care as much about our ponies as I do,” he said.