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Toontown was our gateway MMO, as well. I started playing it with my son when he was 5, and now he is 17 and we play WoW together. I sometimes call gold "jellybeans."
I killed or battled a half dozen pets in the area, then came back and saw two harpies spawn. I don't think killing the critters affects it. You need to free up spaces in the Northern Barrens population for new spawns of any kind. In this case, it does help to go out and do the work and reduce the pet population in the area, not just hang around waiting for spawns :)