LA Progressive

Santa Monica Council Shuns Tethering of Ponies

Early Wednesday morning, approaching 2 am, four Santa Monica council members – Ted Winterer, Gleam Davis, Tony Vasquez, and Kevin McKeown — passed a motion instructing city staff to either open the bidding process for alternatives to the tethered pony ride and petting zoo at the Main Street farmers market or allow the market manager to institute a pilot educational program (cooking, arts), once the current animal exhibitor’s contract expires in May. Either way, preference is to be given to non-animal vendors.

Here’s a link to the discussion, which occurs at 9:20:24.

The motion that passed comes on the heels of a petition I launched last spring, calling on the city council to close the exploitative animal exhibits. The petition now has 1,400 signatures.

Santa Monica can now move forward in a more positive and humane direction, offering our children uplifting activities like painting, poetry, and drama, rather than sad animal spectacles involving tethering and trapping.

I want to thank council members Winterer and Davis for their leadership. Santa Monica can now move forward in a more positive and humane direction, offering our children uplifting activities like painting, poetry, and drama, rather than sad animal spectacles involving tethering and trapping. I’m looking forward to the day my neighbors, who have long boycotted this market, can return without experiencing that sinking feeling so many describe upon seeing the plodding ponies.

Pony ride operator Tawni Angel spoke to the council – as did her supporters – defending the rides as educational and fun for the children. Others testified the children looked miserable, forced to ride the ponies by parents nostalgic for a bygone era. Angel and her supporters, including a burly guy who signed in as “The People of California,” also accused me of making false statements and engineering an unfounded protest. In response, attorney and animal rights activist Judy Powell suggested the animal exhibitor was resorting to name calling because of the weakness of her defense.

Also among those testifying was local veterinarian Robert Goldman, who referred to the animal spectacles as “captive exploitation.” Goldman questioned whether the city had ever established an “Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee” involving veterinarians and animal behaviorists. Colin Wadkin, an animal rights champion who protested the pony ride in 2005 and, together with Nazila Mahgerrfteh, collected signatures from almost a thousand market patrons wanting to close the tethered pony ride, testified “All you have to do is look into the ponies’ eyes to see their misery.”

Labor law attorney Ira Gottlieb (my husband) told the council the issue is not whether the ponies can reason, but whether they can suffer. Jackie Hirtz, my writing partner and horse lover, pointed out the tight space in which the ponies plod is far too confining for the animals.

Others who spoke out – residents Janet McKeithen, Maria Loya, Danielle Charney, Mike Salazar, Ruth Olafsdottir, Zoe Muntaneer, Nicole Phillis, Katherine Elderidge, Ed Hunsaker, Mar Vista’s Robin Doyno and Venice’s Lisa Chess – mentioned the animal excrement in such close proximity to food poses health dangers, that animals need much more room to roam, that children need to interact with animals in a more natural habitat, that our present treatment of animals lacks compassion, and that we can do much better.

I said it was time to end animal enslavement, and offered the pony ride operator support in forming a non-profit animal rescue sanctuary. I asked the council to imagine young artists, poets, gardeners and cooks featured at the market’s entrance. (see photos below of family-oriented activities at other markets in Portland and Boston)

Although Council Member McKeown voted for the motion, he scolded me publicly for conducting a protest at the market, emphasizing he favors “process” over “protest.”

Anyone want to meet me with picket signs this Sunday at ten?

Ah, just kidding.

Power to the ponies!

Marcy Winograd