Animal activists call foul over baseball team's "Cowboy Monkey Rodeo"

This image, from the Wilmington Blue Rocks' YouTube page, shows the team's long-running, controversial rodeo.

YouTube/Wilmington Blue Rocks

WILMINGTON, Del. -- For animal rights activists, one minor league baseball team's tradition of having capuchins ride atop sheep dogs isn't harmless monkey business.

The News Journal of Wilmington reports the Cowboy Monkey Rodeo is held at various times each season by the Wilmington Blue Rocks, with chaps-wearing monkeys riding border collies while herding sheep for laughs.

The rodeo is a longstanding tradition. The Wilmington Blue Rocks posted this video of the rodeo in 2009:


Activists held a protest outside the team's stadium last month during the rodeo, accusing rodeo operator Tim "Wild Thang" Lepard of abusing the animals. Lepard says he pampers the monkeys like "family."

More than 47,000 people have signed a petition circulated by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals condemning the rodeo.

Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Connor says the league doesn't support animal acts, but his statement stopped short of banning them.