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Santa Monica Looks for New Farmers Market Attractions in Potential Post-Pony Ride Era

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

April 3, 2015 -- A meeting will take place Tuesday at the Santa Monica Library for people interested in hosting educational and entertainment activities at the Main Street Farmers Market. Not encouraged to attend are those involved in animal activities, including pony rides and petting zoos.

Six months ago, the four City Council members remaining in a Tuesday night meeting that went into the early hours of Wednesday morning voted unanimously to put an end to a two-decade tradition of children’s pony rides and a petting zoo at the market.

This decision followed a campaign by Santa Monica activist and former congressional candidate Marcy Winograd, who said the activities were cruel to the animals. She launched an e-petition that garnered more than 2,000 signatures.

“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,” states the petition, which goes on to include various specific allegations.

The City’s notice for applications to the Educational and Entertainment Activity Pilot Program does not specifically state animal activities will not be allowed at the market, but it says the City has a “preference for non-animal related activities.”

Although Tawni’s Ponies and Petting Farm Inc. is losing its spot at the market after 11 years, company head Tawni Angel is still putting up a fight. 

She launched a rival petition that has attracted more than 1,110 signatures.

“This petition is in response to the recent attack on my personal life and business by an individual who promotes untruthful, slanderous accusations in her ‘campaign’ to shut down the children's pony ride and petting farm in Santa Monica,” Angel wrote.

She also filed a defamation suit against Winograd late last year.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Hart-Cole rejected a motion by Winograd in January to dismiss the suit. 

Winograd alleged the suit should not go forward due to the State’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) that protects activists from being silenced. 

She has appealed the judge's ruling.

Although Winograd’s petition received nearly twice as many signatures as Angel’s petition, Santa Monica public sentiment might be in favor of continuing the animal activities. 

Survey results released by the City earlier this month show 92 percent of the 114 comments from market visitors regarding the pony rides and petting zoo favored keeping the attractions.

“The survey results again draw into question the City Council’s decision to exclude the ponies and petting zoo once the contract between the City and Tawni’s Ponies and Petting Farm Inc. ends in May,” Angel’s attorney Donald E. Chomiak told the Lookout.

But City officials haven't made a move to bring these activities back to the Main Street Market. And Mayor Kevin McKeown told the Lookout in January that the ongoing defamation legal battle will have no effect on the situation.

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