LOS ANGELES—The famed Griffith Park Pony Rides will close after nearly 70 years in the coming weeks, the business’s owner Steve Weeks said in a statement on Facebook Dec. 3, citing the efforts of a “few radical animal rights activists” to shut it down.
“Despite our year-long fight to answer the untrue statements of these individuals, our efforts were not heard,” Weeks said in the social media post. “This was the city’s decision and not the pony rides’ choice.”
Weeks said he received a letter from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks stating their contract would not be renewed. In the coming weeks, he said he will be looking to find the ponies new homes, as the company’s last day will be Dec. 21.
“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.
The rides opened in 1948 for young children to ride ponies in a “safe and controlled setting,” according to the company’s website.
LA’s Parks and Recreation Department said in a statement on Dec. 4 per “the request of the City Council, the Department will undertake a community input process to re-imagine the recreational and educational activities offered at this location in Griffith Park to continue providing youth and families an affordable and enjoyable experience.”
The city did not give a reason for why the company’s contract would not be renewed.
The pony rides came under fire in recent years by animal rights activists, particularly the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals—a nonprofit dedicated to combating animal abuse—who claimed the ponies are often mistreated and that geriatric ponies are forced to work during excessive heat in the summer.
The group posted photos and videos of the ponies on their Facebook page over the last year along with negative Yelp reviews of the company.
Others, however, who appeared to be unaffiliated with the group also have written negative reviews.
“Came here for the first time and was saddened by what I saw. It is obvious that the animals are unhappy. Do not ride these ponies,” one Yelp reviewer, Sophia H. of Hancock Park wrote earlier this year.
Another reviewer, Zoe C. of Burbank wrote: “We visited last week on a hot day – we assumed the ponies would be kept in the shade, but no, they’re out in the hot sun the whole day – they all looked exhausted and miserable.”
Last year, the group urged the city to ban the use of animals in such activities citywide.
“We call upon the City of Los Angeles to shut down horse, pony rides, and petting zoos because these practices abuse animals for entertainment,” Alliance for Animals said on Facebook Nov. 20.
Weeks said in a statement in October that the company has had inspections, weekly vet visits, and inspections from the Los Angeles Animal Services and other governmental agencies and “have found to be compliant with all animal welfare laws.”
“We have hired a full-time Animal Welfare Officer just to assure our ponies receive the best of care. We provide daily ongoing care for our working ponies and our own sanctuary care for our older ponies who we have retired to live out their life on our property without work because of all they have given to the children of Los Angeles,” Weeks said.
The company’s operations have undergone several inspections after the City Council received multiple calls reporting animal abuse at the park.
In January, Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Nithya Raman authored a motion calling for an independent audit of the pony rides.