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July 22, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: Rodeos and animal welfare

Ohlone Humane Society: Rodeos and animal welfare

By Eric Mills, OHS Community Relations Director

Summer's upon us, and it seems there's a rodeo of some kind around every corner.

First, the good news -President Obama recently signed federal legislation making it illegal for tobacco companies to sponsor sporting events. Hallelujah!

Close to home, the Bill Pickett Black Cowboys Rodeo also closed on Sunday at the Rowell Ranch in Castro Valley. Pickett was an early-20th century cowpoke credited as the inventor of the rodeo's steer wrestling event. Bill's claim-to-fame was to bite the hapless animal on the nose and lip, so that sheer pain kept the steer on the ground, hence the event's original name, "bull dogging." Biting is now against the rules. I'm sure the steers are grateful (Cowboys, too).

Moving south, the California Rodeo opens for a four-day run in Salinas, July 16-19. I was there for the 1995 mayhem when five animals were killed: three horses, a wrestling steer, and a roping calf who suffered a broken back in a "jerk down." The baby (!) animal was not euthanized, but simply trucked off to slaughter, terrified and in agony. Painkillers? "Nyaah," the attending vet told me. "That would ruin the meat."

After great public outcry, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) began requiring on-site veterinarians at all their events. They claim that animal injuries are rare, yet their own surveys show that animals are injured (on average) at 57% of their rodeos. (The PRCA sanctions some 700+ rodeos annually in the U.S., nearly 100 in California.)

California Penal Code 596.7 requires that rodeo animal injury reports be submitted to the State Veterinary Medical Board at the end of the rodeo. With about 150 sanctioned rodeos held in California every year, and probably double that number of amateur events (plus the Mexican "charreadas"), one could reasonably expect at least 75 such reports annually, no? Yet, amazingly, only seven reports were submitted to the Vet Board, 2000-2008... and none so far this year. This does not compute. Either there's a massive cover-up, or somebody's lying... or both.

All this underscores the pressing need for an on-site veterinarian at every California rodeo, pro or amateur. The "on call" vet option allowed by current law is not working, and the animals suffer accordingly. All legislators may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 94814

Rowell Ranch update - Rowell Ranch Jr. Rodeo - Runs August 1-2, beginning daily at 9 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend (it's free), then express their concerns to the HARD Board and the media. Some humane reforms are in order. The Jr. Rodeo features 19 different events for kids ages 6 to 18, including bull riding, calf and steer riding, calf roping, and the particularly pointless and abusive "goat tying" event.

Earlier this month a 12-year-old little boy was killed in a bull riding accident at a "Little Britches" rodeo in Colorado. The bull stepped on the boy's chest - even though he was wearing a protective vest, he died. Is this not a case of child endangerment? Parents and rodeo committees alike should be cited for this. Perhaps state legislation is needed to prevent such incidents involving minors (See above for legislators' address.).

Goat Tying - A small (often baby) goat is tethered at one end of the arena by a 10' rope. A boy or girl on horseback races to the goat at full speed from the other end of the arena, dismounts, then roughly throws and ties the terrified animal. Fastest time wins and each goat may be thrown and tied as many as five times. Sometimes the horses run right over the goats, risking life and limb... unsafe for all concerned.

YouTube goat tying video;

What others have to say about goat tying:

Allison Lindquist, Exec. Director, East Bay SPCA - "The East Bay SPCA would like to go on the record as opposing the use of any animals for the sport of tying. The potential for injury of these animals, especially the younger, smaller ones, is great.... Although heralded as 'traditional' and 'wholesome family fun,' it is, in fact, sheer torture for the animals involved."

Capt. Cindy Machado, Chief Humane Officer, Marin Humane Society - "The {YouTube} video accurately depicts what happens, but doesn't show the extent of injuries that these goats and sometimes horses can suffer. Lots of tangling issues, rope burns, dislocated legs, sometimes broken necks/legs... I would argue that it could be considered cruelty under Penal Code 597(b) and would also fall under the "subjecting an animal to unnecessary cruelty...torments...." Five times of this use is outrageous!"

Glenn Howell, Director, Animal Services, Contra Costa County - "I've never seen goat tying before. Looks even worse than calf roping."

Carl Friedman, Director (retired), San Francisco Animal Care and Control - "I'm against any type of roping or tying of animals for entertainment. It serves no purpose except to possibly hurt the animal and give those cowboys the testosterone that is regrettably absent in their genetic makeup."

Peggy W. Larson, DVM, MS (Pathology), JD, Consultant, Animal Law & Veterinary Medicine (Williston, VT) - "As a former large animal veterinarian, a pathologist, meat inspector and former bareback bronc rider, I don't have to imagine the trauma these young, small goats sustain in this ridiculous, cruel event. The injuries and the pain are real. There must be some collective mental vacuum in the rodeo crowd that would find this event fun. Substitute a 40 pound dog in this event and the roper would wind up in court for animal cruelty, probably felony animal cruelty in most states. These events are inhumane and cruel and must end."

What you can do to help:

WRITE: Hayward Area Recreation & Park District (HARD), demanding that the goat tying event be banned, and a prohibition on minors riding bulls: Rita Shue, HARD General Manager, and the Board of Directors, 1099 "E" Street, Hayward, CA 9454l; fax 510/888-5758; tel. 881-6700; email -

Lastly, urge your religious community to take a stand on these moral, ethical and public safety issues. Silence is complicity. The animals (and we) deserve better.

Thanks for caring!

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