MAIN STREET — She might not have a large number of supporters but Marcy Winograd isn’t giving up in her fight against pony rides in Santa Monica.
The business license for Tawni’s Ponies, the only consistently operating pony ride company in Santa Monica, has been expired since 2004 according to City Hall documents originally acquired by Winograd. City records officials confirmed the expired license.
City finance officials are also aware that Tawni’s Ponies does not have an active business license but were still taking a closer look at the implications by press time.
There is a stipulation in the company’s contract with City Hall, which was signed in 2006, that requires the owner to pay a $75 flat fee every week but the contract makes no mention of business licenses.
The contract also requires that the operator has an animal permit, which, according city officials, she does not.
More than 10,000 pony rides and petting farm entries have been sold at the Farmers’ Market since July, according to city officials.
Tawni Angel, the owner of the company, did not respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting comment by press time. She has been running pony rides and the petting zoo at the Farmers’ Market for years.
Winograd, a resident and former congressional candidate, claims that pony rides and petting zoos are inhumane. They are made worse, she said, by the fact that children are taught to be cruel to animals.
Last month, Winograd started an online petition to ban pony rides and petting zoos in the city by the sea. To date, the petition has garnered 278 signatures. By comparison, an online petition to reinstate Mark Black, the teacher involved in a physical altercation with a student at Santa Monica High School, got more than 158,000 signatures in less than two weeks.
Angel’s own online petition defending pony rides — created in response to Winograd’s petition — has been signed 734 times.
Last month she defended the zoo and rides to the Daily Press, explaining that many of her animals are rescues that needed homes or would have been slaughtered for food. She takes excellent care of them, she said, and, given the cost of their up-keep, the business only helps her break even.
Winograd organized a protest at the Farmers’ Market in April. Six protesters showed up to the first rally.
On Sunday, Winograd and others called the non-emergency Santa Monica Police Department line. Animal Control sent an officer to the market to check on the situation.
In 1999, a previous Farmers’ Market pony ride operator was arrested by SMPD after it was discovered her animals were living in squalor, according to the Los Angeles Times archives.
“I have suggested in various e-mails to city lawmakers and city management that we either close the pony ride or make it humane and educational by moving the whole operation to a larger venue, such as Virginia Park, where the ponies could be taken off the tether and put on a lead,” Winograd said. “… Ultimately, the city needs an animal welfare commission to look at best practice, to affirm existing laws and policies that protect animals and promote new policies that will serve as models for the rest of the nation.”