LOS ANGELES (CNS) - With temperatures expected to soar into the 90s Sunday, animal rights activists are planning a protest at the Griffith Park Pony Rides & Petting Zoo, insisting that forcing horses to carry customers in such heat amounts to animal cruelty.
Los Angeles Alliance for Animals plans a demonstration at the park at noon to demand that the city of Los Angeles cancel the contract of the concessionaire.
LAAA and other animal rights activists have railed against the pony- ride operation for months, holding regular demonstrations at the park.
Activists noted that horse rides continued Saturday, when the high reached 91 degrees at the park. Sunday's forecast calls for a high of 93.
"We are disturbed that Recreation and Parks Commission has decided to renew the Griffith Park and Pony Ride contract in spite of the fact that several animal welfare violations committed by the concessioner have been brought to their attention just in the last several weeks," LAAA Founder Zohra Fahim said. "By doing so, the commissioners are disregarding the safety and well-being of the animals, as well as the concerns of thousands of tax-paying Angelenos who have called and emailed imploring them to shut the concession down."
Griffith Park Pony Rides owner Steve Weeks told City News Service earlier this year that the company halts the rides when temperatures reach 95 degrees.
Weeks also told CNS that the pony rides recently passed a "vigorous inspection" ordered by Los Angeles officials months ago.
"The company was asked to update some record keeping as well as schedule more regular maintenance by their farrier. Any issues that were addressed in that report were immediately complied with," Weeks said.
According to the report, Dr. Rachael Sachar inspected the facility's 38 ponies, seven goats, two rabbits and one sheep on Jan. 3 and found "the working conditions to be satisfactory and did not witness any gross violations related to the care or the treatment of the animals on exhibit."
However, Sachar also found what she called "several legal violations that need to be rectified, medical issues that need to be addressed, and new policies and practices that need to be established for the safety and welfare of the animals."
These included "no identification methods utilized to identify each individual animal and there are no individual animal charts/ files/ or records."
Dental examinations revealed that most of the ponies were geriatric (20 to 30 years old), including one in his or her late 30s. Almost all the horses were in need if dental care and many had saddle sores and/or callouses over their withers. "Charts of operation indicated that these ponies were still in full work and veterinary expense records indicated that they were not currently under any veterinary treatment for these lesions," the report said.
The report also faulted the GPPR's outdoor enclosures and shelters, calling them "not optimal for protecting the ponies in extreme wind or rain. They have no wind breaks, have poor drainage, and were still muddy from recent rains. The enclosures were otherwise clean and had very little manure or urine."
The report said the facility's policies for acceptable working temperatures and management of the ponies' water and shade access can be improved and expanded.