Kids birthday parties can be a hotbed of controversy, from clashes over gifting to competitive parents using them as a platform to out-do others. But this new party trend has sparked warnings from animal welfare groups, including the RSPCA.
Painted pony parties are increasingly in popularity and a concerned member of the public has set about banning them, posting a petition that to date, has received more than 90,000 signatures, of a 150,000 target.
Joe Callister took to Facebook to promote his petition, saying, "It is shameful, disrespectful and unjust to use a fellow animals body like a chalkboard as a money-spinner, for therapy, or any other reason when we have viable alternatives."
Some of the nearly 2,500 responders on the Facebook post expressed concern about toxins, however Joe says the horse was painted in non-toxic chalk. He says that his point is not about animal cruelty, it's about animal exploitation and abuse of power.
It's a stance RSPCA Australia agrees with, issuing the following formal statement to Essential Kids:
"The primary purpose of using horses in this manner is for entertainment. The RSPCA believes that not only must the welfare of animals used for entertainment be safeguarded, but that their dignity should be maintained as well.
Horses who are held to be painted by children for entertainment may be viewed as being objectified rather than helping children to appreciate the essence of a sentient animal.
Using horses in this way poses several welfare risks including stress from transportation and exposure to an unfamiliar environment. It is also known that drugs are used to sedate horses where they are required to remain still such as advertising photo shoots which raises serious concerns. There are many alternatives for providing party entertainment without subjecting animals to unnecessary risks."
Many commenters on Facebook agreed with Mr Callister.