Farmers Market visitors expressed opposition to the impending ousting of pony rides at the Main Street market, according to survey results released by City Hall.

While pony rides were not the subject of the survey, an open-ended question was flooded with more than 100 responses asking City Hall to keep the pony rides.

Of the just over 200 comments (or affirmation of comments) that were left over a four and a half hour period on Feb. 15, 114 were about the pony rides and petting zoo. Only 8 percent of those comments supported the removal of the pony rides while 92 percent asked that they remain, according to the report from Farmers’ Market Coordinator Jodi Low.

“For many years my kids rode the ponies,” said one commenter. “We all love them! Please keep the ponies! You have one or two ‘squeaky wheels’ making a decision for everyone. Please keep this passage for the youngest of the community.”

Animal rights activists began protesting the pony rides and petting zoo early last year. They claimed, among other things, that the rides and zoo teach kids to mistreat animals. In their visits to the market, city officials did not find the animals living in unsafe conditions. But in September, City Council voted to seek a non-animal vendor to replace Tawni’s Ponies, owned by Tawni Angel, after her agreement with City Hall expires later this year. Angel has been a vendor at the market for years.

Last month, council voted to ban exotic animals from parks and most crowded public places after city officials cited concerns about mistreatment of the creatures and threats to public safety.

The survey at the Sunday Main Street Farmers’ Market asked visitors to respond to multiple-choice questions about what they’d like to see more and less of at the market. One board allowed market-goers to write in comments. Some comments were affirmed by check marks from other market-goers, which is how the pony rides received so much support.

The comment, “Keep ponies and petting zoo,” got 35 affirmations while “Keep ponies,” got nine.

“Please keep the ponies and petting zoo,” read one comment. “My daughter is very attached to the ponies. And they don’t look over-worked or anything, like that. They seem just fine! Well cared for and relaxed.”

There were at least 11 comment or affirmations that seemed to support the removal of ponies.

“Unkind to shackle ponies,” one said, “don’t teach the children this kind of message.”

“Teach kids to respect ponies and other living beings,” said another, “do not ride or treat as creatures for human convenience.”
Some comments were more ambiguous.

“Have the council members consult constituents before they vote on the ponies,” one visitor wrote.

dave@www.smdp.com

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