GRIFFITH PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A city of Los Angeles task force met Thursday to hear public comment as the Griffith Park Pony Rides are set to close in less than a week.
The L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks Commission Task Force on Concessions gave people an opportunity to speak for or against the city's decision not to renew the contract to keep the attraction open. They also discussed what to do with the property after it closes.
"My dad used to bring my here as a baby, it's really sad because it was a lifetime of memories," said Nercy Rios, who is disappointed about the closure.
The pony rides are scheduled to close to the public beginning Dec. 22.
The attraction has been popular with families but has also been the subject of criticism from animal-rights activists.
Stephen Weeks, the attraction's owner, said four ponies died this year from either old age or illness. He said all of ponies are well cared for, including the four that passed away, which he said created the initial controversy.
"Our contract and the general manager stated that we are not required to report deaths to the city of L.A.," said Weeks. "We have retired ponies on our facility. These were aged, retired ponies, these were not our working ponies that passed away, but retired ponies that we were keeping for the rest of their lives."
Weeks added that he and his team supplied veterinary and other records to the city.
"I'm the one that disclosed it to the vet about the death of the four ponies in particular," he said.
In November 2021, a group held a protest at Griffith Park, claiming that animal welfare laws were being broken. The Los Angeles Alliance for Animals demanded that the city enact an ordinance banning pony rides.
"Animal welfare laws, created with the input of veterinarians and equine experts, are constantly ignored by the pony ride operator and are never enforced by Park and Recreation, and Los Angeles Animal Services nor Los Angeles Police Department," the LAAA said at the time, claiming it had been monitoring the rides since July of that year.
"The Pony rides concession is animal cruelty disguised as child entertainment. Unkind treatment of animals doesn't align with Los Angeles values. Los Angeles has passed the fur ban, bull hook ban, and no wild animals in private parties."
The Griffith Park Pony Rides issued a statement in November 2021, saying the facility was routinely inspected by city and county of Los Angeles to "assure the safe and humane treatment of every animal."
Weeks said he had a total of 36 ponies and all but six have been adopted so far. Those six are still waiting for loving homes.