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Los Angeles City Council to vote on rodeo ban

LA City Council to vote on rodeo ban on Tuesday
LA City Council to vote on rodeo ban on Tuesday 03:06

The Los Angeles City Council will decide whether to ban rodeos in city limits over concerns that the events are inherently cruel to animals on Tuesday.

A City Council committee passed a proposed ordinance in December 2022 that would have prohibited "the use of electric prods or shocking devices, flank or bucking straps, wire tiedowns, and sharpened or fixed spurs or rowels at all rodeo or rodeo related events" in the city of Los Angeles. The full council never voted on that ordinance and the council instead switched its focus to an outright ban on rodeos.

John Popoch, deputy chief of staff for Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who co-authored the original motion in 2021, told the committee members that the council made the switch at the suggestion of the city's Equine Advisory Committee to avoid potential confusion over the kind of events that would be included in the ban.

Popoch, who described the effort as "a labor of love for Blumenfield," said, "I'm hoping this will be another sign of the city's care for animals" and "preventing unnecessary violence toward sentient creatures who don't have a choice in the matter."

Prior to the Tuesday's council meeting, Blumenfield will had a news conference alongside animal welfare activists and celebrities on the First Street steps in front of City Hall. Celebrities Kate Mara, from Netflix's "House of Cards" and Fox's "24," and Chris DeRose, known for his roles on "San Pedro Beach Bums," "General Hospital," "Cagney and Lacey," among others attended.

"It is time for our city act in the interest of animal welfare on this issue as it has in the past for other issues," Blumenfield said in a statement.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez will also have a separate 9:30 a.m. news conference to discuss an amendment she plans to introduce regarding the rodeo ordinance that aims to protect historical and cultural activities. She will provide remarks inside City Hall at the Rick Orlov Memorial Media Center, located directly behind City Chambers.

Specifically, Rodriguez is seeking to carve out protections for Charrería, predominantly practiced by Latinos and also Mexico's national sport and a tradition in Mexican and western United States livestock herding communities.

According to Rodriguez's office, in its current form the proposed ordinance "unfairly excludes sports like polo and dressage while applying a broad definition of rodeo that adversely affects cultural traditions."

A ban would end the annual Los Angeles appearance by the Professional Bull Riders tour, which has events at Arena in February.

The two-day PBR stop in early 2023 drew 12,529 fans for its Saturday night event, with about 20 animal rights demonstrators outside the arena.

"This passed committee unanimously late last year. I wished it would have passed council by now because it breaks my heart that more animals will suffer this weekend. But we were working hard to make sure it will pass soon so this can be the last of it in L.A.," Popoch said before the PBR event in February.

PBR events focus on bull riding and do not include other traditional rodeo events. The tour has fought back against complaints of cruelty, running an ad prior to its 2023 tour stop that stated: "Buck the L.A. City Council.

The Only Thing Being Tortured is the Truth." Sean Gleason, CEO and commissioner of Professional Bull Riders Inc., has called the proposed ordinance "unnecessary legislation" that will cancel events that he says benefit the local community.

"If it passes, we will not have events in L.A.," Gleason said previously. He added that PBR has many rules in place to ensure its animals are treated well, and offered to "invite L.A. City Council members to come to (Arena) ... to learn about the animal athletes who are the real rock stars of the sport, get the best care and live a great, long life four to five times longer than animals not fortunate enough to compete."

In October, the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services Commissioners unanimously recommended that the City Council pass the ban, with several members of the public and LAAS General Manager Staycee Dains speaking in strong support of the measure and no one speaking against it.

Dains said she did a lot of research ahead of the item coming before the panel, and "all of the organizations (involved with sanctioning and regulating rodeos) acknowledge that animals are harmed."

"The best rodeos will have a vet on site me, that's an acknowledgment that this process is inherently unsafe for these animals," Dains said. "This is not about preserving culture. Hundreds of years ago, animals were rounded up from the plains, so you had to physically tackle animals. That doesn't exist anymore." 

"I hope we would all agree that just because something was done hundreds of years ago does not mean that it merits preservation. Nobody's life will be destroyed or hindered or harmed when we protect animals from abuse," Dains said.

The City Council originally asked the city attorney to draft a proposed ordinance in early 2021, modeling it after a 1992 ordinance enacted in Pittsburgh that Los Angeles officials say has worked well in its 30 years of enforcement.

"Rodeos often use a number of inhumane implements to encourage aggressive behavior in animals to produce an entertainment product. Animals suffer significant injuries during common rodeo events such as bull and bronco riding, steer wrestling and calf roping," the City Council motion stated. "Many animals are put down as a result of injuries sustained during these events. It is time for our city to act in the interest of animal welfare on this issue as it has in the past for other issues."

Pasadena banned the display of wild or exotic animals on public property in 2015, a law that applied to circuses and rodeos. Irvine banned rodeos in 2011, and Laguna Woods and Chino Hills have also banned them.

Other cities and counties including Alameda County in Northern California and Clark County in Nevada have passed more narrow prohibitions on specific rodeo activities without banning the events all together.

Rodeos are banned in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, and Vancouver, Canada banned them in 2006.

If the City Council passes the ban, rodeos could still take place in areas of Los Angeles County that fall outside Los Angeles city limits, including the annual Industry Hills Charity Pro Rodeo that funds local nonprofits in the San Gabriel Valley. 

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