To: Pam O'Connor, Mayor, Santa Monica, Terry O'Day, Mayor Pro Tempore of Santa Monica, Kevin McKeown, City Council Member, Ted Winterer, Santa Monica City Council Member, Tony Vazquez, Santa Monica City Council Member, Gleam Davis, Santa Mo...

Shut Down Carousel Pony Ride and Zoo in Santa Monica

We call on the city of Santa Monica, known for its visionary and progressive policies, to shut down pony rides and petting zoos because these cruel and inhumane exhibits exploit animals for entertainment.

• The ponies, tethered tightly to a turnstile, are forced to plod in circles for hours, sometimes in terrible heat, with music blasting next to them at the farmers market.
• Petting zoos also subject animals to the stress of transport, unnecessary handling, and crowds of strangers. Baby animals cower in corners to escape the commotion.

Horses are specifically excluded from protection under the federal Animal Welfare Act, so it's imperative that local governments intervene to stop animal abuse.

Rather than teach children that animals are here for our entertainment and exploitation, let us encourage young people to take nature walks and observe animals in their natural habitats or at sanctuaries.

We urge the city of Santa Monica to take a leadership role in the protection of animals.

Why is this important?

Court of Appeal Rules in Favor of Pony Ride Protester
In a May 9, 2016, victory for legislative advocates, Division 5 of the California Court of Appeal – a panel of three conservative-leaning Justices – unanimously reversed Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart Cole’s decision that petitioner and protester Marcy Winograd (that's me) should stand trial for accusing the pony ride and petting zoo operators of animal abuse. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Sanjay T. Kumar, said such accusations were protected by California’s legislative privilege because the accusations were made while petitioning the City Council to close the pony ride and petting zoos.

The appellate court ruled that the statements in my articles and television interview “relate to the supposed poor treatment the pony ride and petting zoo animals received, and either directly or inferentially solicited public support for (my) petition to cause the City of Santa Monica to take action to end the pony ride and petting zoo.”

The ruling stated:

“Civil Code section 47 provides in part, “A privileged publication or broadcast is one made: [¶] . . . [¶] (b) In any (1) legislative proceeding, (2) judicial proceeding, [or] (3) in any other official proceeding authorized by law . . . .” “The privilege set forth in section 47(b) applies to ‘any’ legislative proceeding. The use of the term ‘any’ necessarily requires that its application be construed broadly” (Spitler v. Children’s Institute International (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 432, 440 (Spitler)), and it applies “when it is shown that the statement … bears some connection to the work of the legislative body …”

The pony ride operators petitioned the California State Supreme Court to review the appellate court ruling, but on July 20, 2016, the Supreme Court rejected their petition for review. Under California's anti-SLAPP law, plaintiffs are required to pay attorneys' fees.
Sunday, May 17th, the City of Santa Monica ended twelve years of tethering ponies to a metal bar or "hot walker" to push them round and round a tiny circumference, always in one direction, shoeless on hard ground. Likewise, the petting zoo where an alpaca and zebu were tightly penned was closed.

The City of Santa Monica is seeking new activity vendors -- those offering cooking demos, arts and crafts, painting and more. Please share this link with vendors who might be interested.

Potential applicants should copy [email protected] and [email protected] when submitting an application.

On Sept. 9, 2014, following almost two hours of robust public debate (link below) the Santa Monica City Council voted to give preference to non-animal vendors while asking City staff to explore alternative venues for the pony operators. If you want to watch the debate, click below.

Pony operators Tawni Angel and Jason Nester sued me, Santa Monica resident Danielle Charney, and 20 unnamed defendants (DOES) following the City Council's September 9, 2014, vote. A lower court judge dismissed part of the suit against me, and the entire lawsuit against Charney, calling it a SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation intended to chill public debate. Following the ruling, Angel and Nester reimbursed Charney's lawyer for $20,000 in legal fees.

Meanwhile, I am taking my case to the California Court of Appeal, arguing protesters have a First Amendment right to picket a carousel pony ride and petting zoo at a city-sponsored market and to petition their government for a redress of grievances. Many thanks to the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press for filing amicus "friend of the court" briefs to support my case. You can read the briefs at LA Progressive:

Thank you for your support!
Below are past posts about this petition.

I live a few blocks from the thriving Santa Monica farmers market on Main Street, where market goers must pass the pony rides and petting zoo in order to purchase fruits and vegetables. Each time I go, I feel sad and ashamed that a progressive and visionary city like Santa Monica allows such animal exploitation. During the last year, out-of-town guests visiting the market have turned to me and said, "How can Santa Monica tolerate this kind of abuse?" I didn't have an answer until now -- We can't tolerate it any longer. Shut down the pony ride and petting zoo.

To see photos of the animal exhibits, visit

UPDATE: On Sept. 9, 2014, the Santa Monica City Council voted to give preference to non-animal vendors when the animal operators' contract expires in May 2015. City Staff is looking at implementing a pilot program that would involve a variety of alternative children's activities, such as arts and crafts and storytelling. Meanwhile, the pony ride and zoo operators have launched a counter-petition to reverse the Council's decision. Please show your support for freeing the ponies from the metal turnstile and ending the penning of zoo animals in a small enclosure.

Update: (3/26/15) An October USDA inspection of the pony vendors' operation notes an abundance of fecal material and flies in the corral and barn in Fillmore, and in the transport trailer that pulls up to Main Street. The report (link below) notes "risks of disease hazards" and "no areas in the enclosure (barn, corral) free of excreta" and "The animal transport trailer has not been cleaned since the facility's last trip. Bedding and fecal material were observed in the trailer." It's not clear if these problems, noted by the USDA in 2014, have been fixed. See the link below to read the report: