Animal Activist Starts Hunger Strike in Jail

Times Staff Writer

An animal rights activist who just began serving a 30-day sentence for violating a city law aimed at curbing picket-line violence has launched a hunger strike in protest, her family said Thursday.

Former child actress Pamelyn Ferdin, who was the voice of Lucy in “Peanuts” cartoon TV specials, hasn’t eaten since she surrendered before San Fernando Superior Court Judge Robert J. Schuit about noon Wednesday, said her husband, Jerry Vlasak.

“Since she didn’t get into her cell until about 3:30 in the morning [Thursday], it’s hard to tell if she’s not eating,” said sheriff’s Lt. Alma Espinoza, a watch commander at Twin Towers Jail in downtown Los Angeles. “They are going to keep an eye on her.”


Ferdin’s attorney, Paul Jensen, was en route Thursday to Los Angeles from Miami and said he planned to talk to Ferdin today at the jail.

“My client is anxious, I’m sure,” Jensen said. “But first and foremost, I have to speak to her.”

Under the county’s early release policy, with good behavior, Ferdin would be eligible for release on July 29, Espinoza said.

Ferdin, 44, of Agoura Hills, was arrested in August 1999 for having a “bull hook” while protesting a Circus Vargas performance at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. The long hooked pole has a wooden shaft about an inch in diameter and violates a 1978 city law aimed at keeping potentially dangerous objects away from demonstrators. Ferdin and other activists say the device is used to prod elephants.

Although the Los Angeles city attorney sought the maximum six-month sentence in 2000, Ferdin was ordered jailed for 30 days. She refused an offer of two years’ probation and a month of community work removing graffiti or trash because she feared being arrested at a future protest would violate her probation.

She appealed the conviction on freedom of speech grounds, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city ordinance does not violate the 1st Amendment because it does not favor a particular viewpoint and provides for alternate means of expression.


“The key point for us is that she broke the law,” said Eric Moses, spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office. “The U.S. 9th Circuit Court backed up the city’s law and determined it’s not a free-speech issue because she had other means to express her point of view.”