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Griffith Park’s Pony Ride Operator Defends Its Animal Care, Buys New Shelters

Horses stand behind a gate in the rain. The dirt ground is wet as rain falls. There is a covered metal area that at least two horses are standing under. The sides are open in all directions.
A screenshot of the Monday video from the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals.
(Courtesy of Los Angeles Alliance for Animals)
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The owner of Griffith Park Pony Rides, under scrutiny from a video of ponies in cold temperatures and rain on Monday, is purchasing new shelters.

The video, taken near 4:30 p.m. by Los Angeles Alliance for Animals (LAAA), shows ponies standing in the pouring rain with a covered area nearby. The organization says it’s an example of the operator violating California’s animal welfare laws, but the operator disagrees.

Owner Stephen Weeks says he’s following state law and that the horses are well-cared for. He says there are eight separate corrals for the horses with overhead metal roofs, and that a third of the herd live in a barn — structures that aren’t seen in the video. He says the horses chose to stand outside.

“The Griffith Park Ponies have adapted to living in an outdoor environment for many years, and are very healthy,” Weeks said. “We do provide barn shelter for our ponies who are older or may feel the effects of the inclement weather more so than others.”

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In the video footage, two ponies appear to fill up one with an overhead cover as heavy rain falls. The structure is otherwise exposed because Weeks says spaces with side coverage aren’t required.

LAAA founder Zohra Fahim, who’s called for a citywide ban on commercial pony rides, says that’s an issue if the horses don’t have an area to shield them from weather elements.

“I don't see any corrals,” she said. “It's really problematic because that means that those horses are in really cold temperatures with the rain. He makes a lot of money off of those animals and he can't even provide that to them, [which] is really atrocious.”

Weeks took over Griffith Park Pony Rides about five years ago and says he’s remodeled the structures. The business passed its latest inspection two weeks ago.

The criticism has prompted Weeks to order “tent-like structures” with side coverage that will be installed next week.

“If they want to come in there and have complete shelter from the rain, they [will] have the ability to do that,” he said.

A motion from Councilmember Nithya Raman is set to go before the city council early next year to authorize third-party equestrian experts to assess the health and care of the horses.

“In the past few months, my office has received numerous concerns from the community regarding the potential mistreatment of the horses at the Griffith Park Pony Rides — concerns that we take very seriously,” wrote Raman in a statement. “It is critical that we do our due diligence to assess the situation and make appropriate recommendations.”

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