The French city of Paris has announced a ban on pony rides for children in its public parks, effective from 2025. The decision follows a long campaign by animal rights activists who witnessed poor treatment of the ponies.
Pony rides have been a popular attraction in various Paris parks, such as the Champ de Mars, Parc Monceau, and Parc du Luxembourg, typically available on weekends and during school holidays.
“Our association demands that the city of Paris stop authorizing pony rides because ponies are not toys,” said Amandine Sansivens, co-founder of the animal rights organization Paris Animaux Zoopolis (PAZ).
She emphasized that ponies used for these rides are often seen as simple entertainment objects for children, who typically ride for 100-200 meters and do not learn anything substantial about the animals or their needs: “We’ve been sounding the alarm for one and half years, and we have recorded major and repeated shortcomings.”
Sansivens pointed out specific shortcomings in how ponies are cared for: “The code (of animal welfare), for example, says that every pony must have access to water and hay regularly, but in reality, this is not the case, there isn’t enough water and hay for every animal. Transport time must not exceed two hours per day. We found out that one company transports (the ponies) for up to six hours per day. This is unacceptable. “
PAZ initiated a petition demanding an end to pony rides, which received more than 8,400 signatures. Responding to this call, city hall decided to phase out the ride operators’ licenses, marking an end to this Parisian tradition.
Stephane Michaud, director of AnimaPoney, a company that operated pony rides in several Paris parks, defended his business, stating that his ponies work only about 150 days per year.
Parisians have had mixed reactions to the ban. While some parents and grandparents agree with the need for better animal welfare, they question the scope of the ban.
Meryem, a 63-year-old grandmother who was walking with two ponies, each carrying a grandchild, stated, “If it (the ban) is for a good reason, they need to explain and set out arguments in defense of this reason. If it is just to say that ponies are mistreated, this won’t be enough because, in this case, everything must stop, horse riding must stop, police on horses must stop, horse breeding for pedigree must stop.”
PAZ has proposed a solution that benefits both animals and children. They suggest transforming a Paris farm in the Bois de Vincennes into a shelter for rescued ponies and donkeys. In this way, children can still learn about and interact with these animals, but in an environment designed for the animals’ well-being.