Griffith Park Pony Rides facing backlash from animal rights groups: Exclusive

The Griffith Park Pony Rides have been a historic landmark in Southern California for decades. Each year, almost 160,000 children visit the site which started operating in 1948.  

Now, Owner Stephen Weeks is facing backlash from animal rights activists and the group Los Angeles Animal Alliance (LAAA). Demonstrators have been protesting the rides weekly and claim the animals are being abused.

"Our goal is to have his contract canceled and to immediately remove all of the animals who are elderly and need to live their lives in comfort," said LAAA founder Zohra Fahim.

The group also claims the 50 horses are being overworked in sweltering hot temperatures during the summer months.

"We don’t push our ponies very hard, usually it’s just a quick walk around the ring a couple of times," said Weeks, who calls the allegations false.

"We have two vets on call 24 hours a day to take care of any veterinary needs they may have. We have a Farrier out here every week to do their feet. We take extra care of our ponies," he said.

The animals and property have undergone several vigorous inspections from Los Angeles officials.  In January after receiving multiple calls reporting animal abuse at the pony rides, City Council Members, Nithya Raman and Paul Koretz filed a motion calling for a third-party assessment of the facility.

"The Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Animal Services have continuously gone out to inspect the facility and have found no violations," the motion states. 

The motion continues by saying, "In response to concerns brought forth by residents and animal rights groups, however, RAP has initiated a process to bring on a third-party equestrian expert to review and report on the policies and practices of the operation to ensure the horses are being well cared for."

Families bringing their children to the pony rides told FOX 11 they had mixed feelings about the abuse claims from protesters.

"I get what they’re saying. You can read an animal’s body language. These animals don’t look as happy as the ones you see out in the wild," said parent Wynord Thomas.

Another parent said she wishes the demonstrators wouldn't take place in front of children. 

"I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t know all the facts. Around kids, I don’t think the protesting is appropriate. They are just kids, they don’t know," said parent Victoria Lopez. 

The City of Los Angeles renewed its contract with Griffith Park Pony Rides allowing the facility to operate for at least another three years.