Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Santa Monica City Council 1:30 am Vote against Ponies

So, I was at the Santa Monica City Council meeting at 1:30 am and I must admit I was probably at my least articulate because I was SO pissed off.

You can read more about it here because I feel I'm getting stupider just thinking about this issue.

Seriously, who has a vote on someone's business at 1:30 IN THE MORNING.

As you might imagine, about the only people who stayed around for 8 HOURS to speak about pony rides were me and some people who gave testimony like this:

"We have gotten rid of human slavery, now let's get rid of animal slavery."

"I am an empath and I can feel those ponies are unhappy."

"We can't have a petting zoo because animals in cages are nervous."

"Ponies are meant to run free in the wild."

"Children can go to farms or animal sanctuaries to see animals."

In the end, the city council said that even though they found NO evidence of animal cruelty, no citations had been issued against the pony rides owner, all health documentation was on file, they were going to hold a Request for Proposals anyway because, in the words of one of the motion authors, Gleam Davis,

"We don't want controversy in our city."

So, basically, they are closing down a young woman's business because some people protested even though they found no validity in the accusations. As I said, I was not at my most articulate because I was just livid to see all of the worst stereotypes of Santa Monica being anti-business and local politics being  determined by a few extremists right in front of my eyes.

No, I'm not going to run for public office. In fact, the only reason this was wasn't a COMPLETE waste of time is that I was able to write most of a proposal while sitting there and I now know three people I will never vote for ever again (see below) and which campaigns to donate money to the opponent.

Even though it doesn't really affect me personally, seeing that the city council did not give a damn about this young woman running a business or the children who benefit was disheartening in the worst way.

If you'd like to give them your opinion, feel free to email

Or maybe you can tweet #keeptheponies

Why one woman should have more say than the families of 400 children who ride the ponies every weekend, I don't know.

Just so you know, Ted Winterer and Gleam Davis are the two council members who put this item on the agenda.

Some self-proclaimed community activist named Marcy Winograd has got the city council to put an item on the agenda to get rid of the pony rides. She also said the ponies and trees have rights just like humans. She says she's an English teacher. Thank God she doesn't teach my child.

You can sign a petition to keep the ponies here.


Anonymous said...

My concern was with the treatment of the animals, and since there was no evidence of abuse or lack of care, there should be no issue.

"We don't want controversy in our city." ?????? WHAT!

How many people showed up FOR the ponies other than you?

isomorphismes said...

Yeah, that sounds very shady. (1:30 in the morning)

But, I don't see how you having more money would change anything. (re: your tweet)

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Only a few people showed up for the ponies because the vote was held at 1:30 am in a meeting that began at 5:30 pm Most people with small children were home with them.

How would having more money change anything? I'm sure if a few lawyers had challenged the city on the fact that the conditional use permit for the Farmers Market was originally granted on the CONDITION that there would be educational activities including animals, it would have had some impact. It was also clear the city council members gave less than a damn that they were going to put some poor woman out of business. If she'd had millions to donate to their campaigns, I'm sure their attitudes would have been different.

Anonymous said...

There was nothing "shady" about the late night. That's unfortunately how the Council operates.and it spent most of the night hearing public comment on a Bergamot development.

Both sides wanted the Council to hear comment and take a position, rather than come back another day.

More people spoke in favor of an alternative to the pony rides than spoke to keep the status quo.

More people signed petitions seeking an alternative than signed one to keep the status quo.

People on both sides of this issue have strong feelings about whether the ponies are or can be considered well-treated while tethered to a metal carousel contraption and required to walk in a tight circle in the heat for hours. Why can't you respect someone else's views on this subject? Just about all of the pro-Tawni people felt they had to launch personal attacks on Ms. Winograd. In that sense, they helped prove the point that this is a flash point and needs to be changed, though the main point is that there are better ways for children to interact with animals than trucking animals 3 hours to have them plod in circles for 3 more.

Robert de Gannes said...

That sucks about the ponies, a vote at 1:30 AM shouldn't be legal.

Totally random, but I heard you wanted to visit Trinidad & Tobago?

Dr. AnnMaria said...

More people spoke in favor of an alternative, I would suspect, because it was at 1:30 am which is a time inconvenient in the extreme to parents of small children. More people may have signed the petition against the ponies because it was begun earlier. I had no idea it existed before a few days ago nor had I ever heard of Ms. Winograd. Perhaps the reason people felt it was reasonable to call her motives into question is that she was attempting to deny 400 children a week an activity they enjoyed and close down a business. Maybe it was because they were offended that she would make accusations of animal cruelty that were refuted by documentation. That's called lying and I'm against it.

Anonymous said...

Am aggravated that the City Council showed poor judgement in deciding an issue which is more like going to impact children and a business-owner than ponies. I want to see those 4 council members agree to foot the bill for food, shoes and board for the ponies they've banished.

Anonymous said...

Dr AnnMaria,

Ms. Winograd did not lie about what was going on at the market or about how the ponies are treated. There are many reasonable people, including Ms. Winograd and many others, who don't find it humane to force ponies to walk around in a tight circle tethered to a pole with children on their backs for three hours. According to your figures (400 children for 3 hours, 133 per hour, divided by six ponies), that's 22 different riders per pony per hour. Doesn't sound like fun or good times to me. Yet no one vilified Ms. Angel on a personal level for her responsibility in going ahead with that practice, for years.

Part of the resolution was to see if there are better, more congenial venues for the pony rides, that would not involve tethering and plodding on concrete for hours, which is consistent with the humane treatment of animals.

As Council members Davis and Winterer suggested (and McKeowwn seemed to suggest but did not carefully articulate), there is room for debate on the issue of the best use of the Main Street space and whether the objections of those who find the pony ride setup abhorrent should be honored. You have not addressed the reasonableness of the opposition's views, or why the momentary happiness of children who may ultimately learn a callous lesson about the treatment of animals for their pleasure may not be the best education for them, or for adults for that matter.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Actually, Ms. Winograd DID lie about what was going on at the market, saying the ponies were forced to go without water when that is not true. I have been there many times myself and seen them given water.

I just came from teaching judo to children in south Los Angeles. No one seems too concerned about them having water, which is why the teacher at the school buys it. Recently, a very kind judo club in Orange county gave us a check to provide them with water all year. For the past few years, however, they have gone without water during practice for a couple of hours and it did not do them great bodily harm.

As far as whether walking in circles for 3 hours, twice a week is "not enough fun" for the ponies - how do you expect them to be supported?

I don't know a single person who wouldn't be happy if their work week was 3 hours, two days a week.

Anonymous said...

Dr Ann Maria, people do and would care about poor teens in the inner city being dehydrated if they knew about it, and it can be dangerous. Not clear what your point is there, but I would agree there is no shortage of good causes and mistreated animals and people to get involved in, and sincere kudos to you for making their lives better.

Lying means deliberately and knowingly telling an untruth. Ms. Winograd has spent a great deal of time at the market and has not seen the ponies drink. She is not there every minute, and neither are you, so we don't know for certain how much water they get, and they are certainly not free to get it whenever they want to.

Why do the ponies have to support themselves with work? Not very many pets perform compensable work. It's fascinating how people criticize animal rights advocates for anthropomorphizing animals, attributing emotions and intelligence to them (which they do have), but then fall back on this nonsense about how these animals should "earn their keep", and anyone would love to only have to work three hours a week.

Those assertions miss the point. There may be workers in this world who would accept payment for being punched in the face for three hours, and of course there are professional fighters who are paid (some quite well) for taking that kind of punishment. But the question remains, should animals who are not given a choice be subject to that treatment? Should that be the only way they will be adequately fed and exercised, and housed? We humans at least have some relative choice to make about exploitation of our own minds and bodies, but we have to be all the more responsible with the lives of beings deemed our "property", who nevertheless are sentient, with emotions, intelligence and the ability to feel pain.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Why should a young woman who has run a business for 11 years have to quit because YOU think, in the absence of any evidence, that the animals are suffering. There are USDA requirements for animal care, inspections, certifications from veterinarians as to animal health and all of those document no wrong doing or harm.

As for why animals should have to work, you may as well extend that to people. Why should people have to work? Plenty of people would rather not.

My friend, Tina, has a guide dog. It has to go in airports, on planes, in very loud venues. How unfair is that when other dogs don't have to work.

While certification that the animals have been inspected and found to be in good health is a FACT, everything that you say and Ms. Winograd says is merely your opinion you are trying to force on someone else to change their lifestyle and business.

I don't know the woman who runs the pony rides other than having seen her there for the past 10 years. I am against running someone out of business. I know how hard it is to run a business and to see that destroyed because someone else doesn't like it is unfair.

If you don't like the pony rides and petting zoo, don't go. For the past 11 years, obviously enough people DID like them to keep the business going.

Anonymous said...

Your statement about guide dogs and assist animals proves my point, because there are so few of them compared to the entire population of domestic animals who do nothing but exist and interact with people to "earn their keep". And there are many good reasons (helping people with disabilities) for those animals to do the work they do, and little substitute if they didn't do it. None of that is true for pony rides.

The "market economy" is another fallback for those without moral compass, because that is the main feature of the "invisible hand." There need not be anything moral about it as long as the market supports it. Well, the "market" supports illegal drugs, prostitution, and porn, among other social evils, and there is still a strong market for cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and for that matter, killing for hire, but we don't allow those first three activities to go on, and we heavily restrict cigarettes (both buying and consuming), so the market justifies nothing by itself. Nor does the fact that various public agencies may have not found an evident health problem change the moral equation.

We used to condone slavery in this country but we don't now. We used to confine animals in zoos in small cages, and the better zoos at least try for a more natural habitat now. Certain other cities -- Huntington Beach, Pasadena, Hollywood, FL, Encinitas, and others -- have banned pony rides. The treatment of animals is not static, and is progressing toward less exploitation and more freedom for the animals. This City did the right thing in following that trend.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

If having animals work for humans is slavery then no animal should do it. Your argument now turns from "Animal slavery is okay if there is a good reason."

If making animals work is wrong then it should be just as wrong for guide dogs. I don't believe an animal working 6 hours a week is slavery. I do believe forcing other people to conform to your views is wrong.

I also think more harm than good is involved in making drugs illegal and, in fact, the trend is going in the opposite direction.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately (or maybe not) we live in a society with nuances and shades of gray. And so I'm willing to make a "slavery" exception only for the amazing, important and irreplaceable work that assist animals perform, because of the overriding importance of that work for the human individuals involved. Perhaps a more precise way of saying that is I believe in that case human's ability to exercise dominion over animals is justified by the unusual and compelling circumstances of that specific situation. But that is simply not true for pony rides, where children simply do not have a compelling need to ride them in a circle, when there are alternatives available that are not as oppressive to the ponies.

One of the risks of doing business can be that society will not tolerate the continuing practice of that business. Cocaine used to be available in the precursor of Coca-Cola, alcohol was banned for a while, certain books have been banned. Moreover, any vendor contracting with a government agency has no guarantee, assurance or expectation that that contract will be renewed.

I would agree with you about at least marijuana, but nevertheless that drug and others should at least be restricted, and its use and sale closely monitored, regulated and taxed by the appropriate governments. In the case of the pony rides, let them establish a non-carousel, non-tethered attraction, and there will be no objection from me.

mike ripple said...

Carrying a 20 lb kid around in circles is not work...if anything it is good for the ponies because it provides exercize for the dumb animals.

Dr. AnnMaria said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. AnnMaria said...

What outrages me about this whole issue is the bullying and the hypocrisy. If Ms. Winograd is truly concerned about ponies not getting regular water breaks - which I can assure you that they do, having attended the market for years with my daughters and now granddaughters - you would think she would be equally concerned about the children at LAUSD who don't have regular access to water during the day. After all, she teaches for the district and should be aware of the sad state of the facilities. You'd think she might be concerned about the people who are going without food - my family has helped raise hundreds of millions of grains of rice for the World Food Programme, so I am not a hypocrite when I say this. You might think she would be concerned about human slavery - I have given my book royalties to programs that fight human trafficking and to support after school programs at LAUSD, so again, I'm no hypocrite when I say these things. You'd think she might be concerned about the homeless humans who are living outside when it is over 90 degrees, with no water and not just for 3 hours, but for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No, her concern is one thirty-something young woman who has ponies three hours a week at the farmers market. Why? Because she doesn't have a lot of resources to fight back. The parents of those 400 kids won't show up at city hall at 1:30 am. As far as having a non-tethered ride - that's the way it was originally. Children used to ride the ponies up and down the street while they were led by hand by the same young woman. The reason that was changed had to do with traffic, I think.

That was NOT what the city council voted on, though. They voted to give preference to "non-animal activities".

Here is what REALLY makes me angry. You have every right in the world to have your beliefs. They can even be hypocritical, racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever - I may disagree and think you are awful to have those, but it's your right. What you DON'T have the right to do is impose those on another person. If someone says, "I don't think two men should marry" or "I think a woman should wear a burka" or any of a thousand different things, we agree to let them live their own values but they don't get to force it on other people. But since YOU aren't saying it's due to religious reasons you think it's okay. However, the only reason Winograd & Co give for getting rid of the pony rides is that they BELIEVE it is bad. There is no animal cruelty law broken, no health regulation violated and no evidence other than some people think the ponies don't look happy. What I really wonder is, why if people were so concerned did they not go to the young woman and offer to buy the animals from her? Why run her out of business? Doesn't this sound a little vindictive to you? My friend, Tina, needs her dog to get around, to get to work. She loves that dog and takes great care of it but I know that sometimes her dog's work is hard. Why is it so much worse for these ponies who work far less than Tina's guide dog does? This is the thing that infuriated me - no one on that city council or testifying against her gave a damn if that young woman lost her business, her employees lost their jobs. What gives you the right to take away her livelihood any more than she, if it was in her power, would have the right to take away yours?

Anonymous said...

Dr Ann, you don't know what else Marcy Winograd is concerned about, or works on, in addition to the pony rides issue. Suffice it to say that she has other causes and values about which she is passionate and active. Questioning a person's priorities is a bit of a dodge, in any event. If the pony rides as currently operated are wrong or don't treat the animals as humanely as they should, isn't it a worthy pursuit to change that? Yes, it's not world peace, it's not stopping ebola, but that doesn't make one a bad person for pursuing it. That approach could always be applied to stop or divert someone. I don't think it's an impressive argument.

And when you talk about bullying, you are not aware of what Tawni et al have been up to. E.g., Tawni's husband has made some subtle threats, and they engaged in personal attacks right there in the Council meeting room.

What gives Tawni the right to operate her pony ride and petting zoo at the Main Street Farmers Market in perpetuity? As Council Member Davis stated at the meeting, it is by the grace of the city that she can have the license and the contract. She can try to find another spot (and I understand she has both at Palos Verdes and Northridge), or she can change the way she operates and try to do something more animal-friendly at another SM Market like Virginia Park.

Again, we have evolved in our views of how animals should be treated, exhibited and perceived by humans. We are trying to be more caring, more compassionate, less domineering, less callous. The test doesn't stop if no one has yet found a violation of the law; that may come some day if the practice doesn't change. Cities have banned tethered pony rides -- Pasadena, Hollywood, FL, Encinitas, Huntington Beach. It wasn't illegal at one time to have cockfighting, and probably was legal to have dog fighting, too. It still isn't illegal to confine big cats to small cages in zoos. But it's not humane to do any of that. And Ms. Winograd is by no means alone in her belief on this score. Ms. Winograd didn't "run her out of business." She has suggested a sanctuary, an alternative way to run the pony rides -- walking them on a lead would be a lot better, so let's find the space to do that.

(By the way, I note that an earlier post didn't get published. What happened?)

dave schaeffer said...

If an under represented minority group wanted to eat the ponies, all the "stop the pony ride" people would be silent. I live in the Santa Ynez valley. I see horses/ponies "running free". Horses/ponies, left alone, will stare at the same spot on the gound for hours, wishing to high heaven someone would strap a wagon to them so they can do something. How does anyone have time to worry about how pony rides effects the mental health of said pony?. Sucks another American business shut down.

mike ripple said...

Not to trivialize all this lucid discourse but...I think everyone should be worried about whether we should allow Vegas and LA to become abandoned deserts or dot the whole California coast with 100 more desalinization plants!