ABU DHABI // Marina Mall has announced that it will no longer offer pony rides.
The decision was taken after customers expressed concern for the welfare of the ponies on social media.
The ponies have been there for many years and were used to take customers on rides around the mall’s car park.
Bonnie Swesey, a teacher at the American Community School in Abu Dhabi, said: “The bright lights, exhaust and noise from the buses, standing on the hard pavement, children and adults physically teasing them, no food or water anywhere near them and, most upsetting, was the lack of ‘light’ in their eyes, it was very disturbing.”
Ms Swesey has previously helped stray and abused animals in the United States, Taiwan and Venezuela.
She first contacted the Bahya Animal Sanctuary and Animal Action Abu Dhabi who told her that they had tried to highlight the plight of the ponies but had not been successful.
A statement from the mall confirmed that the ponies would no longer be stationed at the mall entrance.
Ms Swesey was thrilled with the mall’s change of heart. She said: “I believe the UAE is interested in maintaining an image of kindness and compassion for all beings. I commend Marina Mall for supporting the community’s request for a more positive image for Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”
Ms Swesey had reached out to the mall via its Facebook page and encouraged its other likers to do the same.
The mall responded: “We appreciate your concern and will address this with the relevant individuals to make sure immediate action is taken.”
Two days later, on Wednesday, the mall removed the ponies.
“What a great example to set for the rest of Abu Dhabi to follow,” said teacher Leslie Tate Kann on Facebook.
But some argued that ponies were fine to be ridden, as long as they were properly cared for.
Lisebeth Arnaerts, a veterinarian at Europets hospital in Sharjah and a specialist in equine care, said: “Pony rides aren’t necessarily inhumane if the animals are properly nourished and given ample time off to run around freely in a paddock or in an open space.”
Pam Mandich, who works at New York University in Abu Dhabi, said: “Pony rides aren’t necessarily bad. Children should be exposed to animals but in a more natural setting.
“I’m very happy with Marina Mall. I hope they have a good plan for the ponies and their attendant and I hope that he didn’t lose his job.”
The mall did not respond to enquiries about the fate of the ponies and their handler.