A woman protests against the pony rides and petting zoo at the Farmers’ Market on Main Street on Sunday morning. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

A woman protests against the pony rides and petting zoo at the Farmers’ Market on Main Street on Sunday morning. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

FARMERS’ MARKET — Pony ride advocates are bringing in the cavalry.

An online petition to ban pony rides and petting zoos in Santa Monica has fewer signatures than an online petition formed in response.

Last week, resident and former congressional candidate Marcy Winograd announced her plans to squash the pony rides, calling them cruel and inhumane.

Winograd said that forcing the ponies to walk in circles for hours is made worse by the fact that children are encouraged to participate.

Her MoveOn.org petition has since garnered 239 signatures.

The only consistently occurring pony rides in the city are run by Tawni’s Ponies at the Main Street Farmers’ Market. Owner Tawni Angel formed a response petition entitled, “Please help stop Marcy Winograd’s effort to Ban Pony Rides & Petting Farms in Santa Monica,” on ThePetitionSite.com that has 650 signatures.

More than 10,000 pony rides and petting farm entries have been sold at the Farmers’ Market since July, according to city officials.

Angel said that 70 percent of her ponies are rescues. Many of the animals in her petting zoo are also rescues or would have been sold for slaughter.

Recently, she said, the entire Farmers’ Market was rearranged to allow her ponies more shade. Ponies that get skittish when giving rides are retired and maintained at Angel’s expense, she said.

Angel is ambivalent about the treatment of ponies by other larger companies but, she said, she takes great care of her animals.

Winograd said that she was inspired in part by the recent legislature introduced by former Santa Monica Mayor and current Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) to ban all whale shows in the state.

Angel said that she too is in full agreement with that proposed ban.

“My ponies live in 5-acre pastures,” she said. “The two issues are not even comparable.”

The petting zoos, Winograd said, teaches children that it’s OK to mistreat animals.

Angel said that her goal is simply to teach kids about animals.

“I can’t tell you how many times a kid has asked me what a chicken is,” she said. “The main reason I do this is for the kids. Where else are they going to see goats and alpacas? I’m not getting rich off of this.”

Her ponies are taken to the veterinarian three times a year and their feet are tended to regularly, she said. All of the money she earns goes back into her animals, she said.

Winograd organized a rally at the Sunday Farmers’ Market. Over the course of the day, six protesters showed up, she said. There were three on scene when a Daily Press photographer stopped by at 11:30 a.m.

Farmers’ Market Manager Laura Avery responded to the petition with a statement explaining that the rides and the zoo operated within the law.

“(City Hall) is sensitive to the welfare of animals and city staff works closely with the operator of the animal activities to ensure that the operator possesses an animal permit issued by the city of Santa Monica Animal Control,” she said.

They also check to make sure that water and food are available for animals, that proper shading is provided while animals are working and resting, that the animals are provided rest periods according to their breed and weather conditions, and all animal waste is cleaned immediately, she said.

Winograd was not moved.

“It’s hardly a family or ‘festival atmosphere’ when small horses plod for hours in tiny circles, their heads bowed and tethered to a pole,” she wrote in an e-mail. “What would we call it if human beings were forced to do this? We would call it torture.”

Winograd is planning another protest for next Sunday.

 

 

dave@smdp.com

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