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Horse Owners Lobby Council

They complain that city laws regarding their animals are restrictive and often contradictory.

October 17, 2002|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

If you're not a horse owner, the sight of a 1,000-pound animal in your neighbor's yard, creating dust and manure, may be upsetting.

But if you live in an equine-zoned area of Los Angeles and have a horse on your property, you're not likely to be sympathetic to your neighbor's complaints.

The conflict has sparked an uprising among equestrian property owners in the San Fernando Valley who feel city horse-keeping laws are so restrictive and contradictory that their rural way of life is in danger of vanishing from L.A.

About 250 horse owners spent more than three hours Tuesday night telling a City Council committee that their rights are being eroded by developers who buy up lots in their neighborhoods to build houses for people who object to barnyard creatures.

They received support for their cause from Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who, as a member of the planning and land-use committee, requested the hearing held in Tujunga.

"The current regulatory structure is a threat to horse-keeping rights," she said Wednesday. "If someone doesn't have a horse for a year ... they can lose the right to have horses permanently."

Bart Paul, a horse owner and Lake View Terrace resident, said government regulations are a nightmare for horse property owners, who live mainly in Chatsworth, Shadow Hills, Tujunga and the Hansen Dam area.

"If you ask how far you have to keep your horse from a dwelling, the animal control department might say one thing, building and safety might say something else, and the health department might say, 'We trump everyone,' " he said.

Greuel said she will ask the full council next week to back her plan for a land-use permit to preserve horse-keeping rights.

In equestrian-zoned areas, property owners who don't keep horses have put landscaping across horse trails. "We need to take enforcement action there," she said.

Greuel wants the distance required between horses and dwellings to be standardized, and will also seek a requirement that horse rights be recorded with deeds and disclosed when property changes hands.

Horse owners said they belatedly have learned that if they don't license their animals with the city's Department of Animal Regulation, their property technically doesn't have a horse on it. Planning Department officials can then issue permits to build on adjacent lots and owners of equestrian-zoned parcels are barred from having stock animals because of nearby dwellings.

Paul said many horse owners don't get licenses because they fear scrutiny from city building inspectors.

"There are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of horses in the Valley," he said. "The city believes there are only a few hundred."

Many horse owners have used the rights issue as an example of why the Valley should break away from Los Angeles and form its own city, Paul said.

"But a lot of us feel that you'd still have the same developers eyeing the same pieces of property," he said, "and it'd be business as usual."

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