Hearings on Rules for Horse Owners Halted

Pressed by hundreds of angry horse owners as well as city officials, the Los Angeles Planning Commission has decided to halt hearings on a new city ordinance regulating the keeping of horses and send the controversial document back to the Planning Department for retooling.

The so-called "Horse Keepers Bill of Rights"--which many horse owners say is anything but--was put on hold last week after public outcry and letters from Mayor Richard Riordan and City Councilmen Hal Bernson, Joel Wachs and Richard Alarcon.

Bernson, whose 12th District contains many horse owners, initiated the ordinance more than two years ago.

"It's actually been taken off the calendar and been sent back to the staff," said City Planner Cora Smith, who worked on the ordinance. "We really believe that we came up with a pretty good ordinance to address all their concerns, but I guess they didn't think so."

Walter Prince, a horse owner and spokesman for the West Valley community group PRIDE, said he was happy the ordinance was stopped for the time being but hoped that the issue would still be studied.

"I'm pleased that it's not going to wipe out horse keeping," he said. "But on the other hand, I want to see something done to protect horse keeping. We're (back) in the same position we've been in for 10 years," without a comprehensive horse-keeping ordinance.

That is exactly what the "bill of rights" was intended to be, a single ordinance that delineated horse-keeping regulations and consolidated the different rules of separate agencies.

When it was released early this month, however, horse owners called it a nail in the coffin of equine use in the city.

Among other problems, they pointed out, a majority of horse keepers in the Valley would become non-complying overnight due to the new rules. Non-complying lots would receive an exemption, but if a registered horse was not kept on the property for three years the exemption would be lost. The owners of the lot would then have to comply with the new rules.

The Planning Commission delayed a vote on the ordinance at a meeting May 12 because it lacked a quorum, and rescheduled it for this Thursday.

Now, the ordinance has been dropped from Thursday's agenda, Chief Zoning Administrator Robert Janovici said, and it may be some time before his employees can get to it again.

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