(ANIMAL RIGHTS) Cinco de Mayo wasn’t exactly a fiesta for Los Angeles Mexican restaurant Pink Taco. Twitter and Facebook erupted on Thursday afternoon when a photo circulated of a donkey that had been spray painted pink with “Pink Taco”scrawled on her side. It was close to 90 degrees in Los Angeles on Thursday, and the pink donkey was chained alone outside the restaurant, often in the blazing sun.

Ben Decker, the president of a public relations company, first tweeted the photo of the donkey, whom Pink Taco calls Pinky, around 4 p.m.

“I was shocked when I realized I was the first person to report it,” said Decker, who snapped the photo then called local animal control and the SPCLA. “How many people walked past that donkey and thought “That’s awful!” but just kept walking? I think part of the problem here is that people don’t know who to report it to,” said Decker.

A few hours later, the Los Angeles Police department forced Pink Taco to take the donkey home for “permit issues.” Home for Pinky is no better than an LA sidewalk, however, since the donkey is a rental animal from Phil’s Animals, which prides itself on providing “trained animals to Hollywood for over 30 years.”

KTLA reported: “According to a spokesman for Phil’s Animal’s, the company had two trainers on site to care for the donkey.”

“We take exceptional care of our animals,” the company said in a statement to KTLA. “The paint was a non-toxic breathable paint and the donkey was shaved. The donkey was to be given many breaks and two trainers were there to ensure [its] safety. She had ample water at all times. We love our animals.”

While PETA supporters and celebrities, including singer Pink and actress Lea Michelle of Glee infamy, tweeted the donkey photo and condemned Pink Taco’s abuse, some commented that the dye wasn’t harmful and that there was water for the donkey outside. Many detractors responded to animal activists outrage with the simple cop-out, “It’s just a donkey.”

While it may seem overkill to say that one’s reaction a spray-painted pink donkey is an indication of individual morality, it is, in fact, exactly that. Loving animals and using them for entertainment is a very different thing and people often fail to make the connection between “love” and actual compassion for an animal. And Decker was the first person to report the donkey despite many people passing her, so the bigger problem lies in the fact that many people see no problem at all with using a live animal as a publicity stunt.

LAist, a local blog, reported that animal activists and “humorless social network users” were apparently the only ones calling for a boycott of Pink Taco.   But these “humorless” social network users reached almost 3,000 people who liked the “Boycot Pink Taco Century City” page (LAist only has 5,000 likes) and a Mother’s Day protest scheduled against the restaurant.

It’s become clear that many people beyond those who regularly call themselves animal activists were upset by Pink Taco’s neglect. The story has been covered by almost every major LA news outlet, which rarely happens for an animal abuse protest. Pink Taco had to shut down their Twitter and Facebook accounts in shame. PETA reports that manager Harry Morton released a statement that “…Pink Taco has agreed not to use animals at our events and promotions and we are looking forward to…discussing how we can work together in the future.” Social network users are passing along a note today from a Pink Taco employee that business has been slow since the pink donkey story circulated.

So many of the stories here at Global Animal, and across news platforms everywhere, start with a simple act by one individual. This time, a single photo caused massive outrage that could have lasting ramifications for the restaurant and the way they view animals. Good work by a good Samaritan.

Beyond that, “Pinky” may initiate a greater awareness of animal exploitation by animal rental companies and anyone else who thinks a living being should be shaved, painted and used as a billboard in 90 degree heat – a tacky move on behalf of tacos.

— Molly-Marie Canales, exclusive to Global Animal