Los Angeles, CA

Move to ban rodeos in Los Angeles based on false premise, says equine coalition

Don Simkovich

Image used for Western Justice Change.org petition with over 28,900 signaturesWestern Justice

Professional bull riders hit Crypto.com arena with the Unleash the Beast PBR series tomorrow evening, Feb. 22, but a Los Angeles City Councilman’s ordinance would end rodeo in the city.

Opponents will rally 6 p.m. at Chick Hearn Plaza before the pro event. They fear the passage would have a far-reaching impact including an end to lasso competitions, gymkhanas, and, eventually, rodeos throughout California and put a cloud over Olympic equestrian events scheduled for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. A separate but related movement would ban pony rides in Griffith Park.

Ordinance Basics

Language in the ordinance being proposed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield is vague, says Dave Duquette, president and founder of Western Justice. He claims the wording would make every equestrian event vulnerable to lawsuits from animal rights groups since the statement includes “any rodeo event or similar event.”

The proposed ordinance isn’t an effort to ban rodeos but to prohibit the use of certain implements like cattle prods, which aren’t in use, and flank straps. Getting rid of them would effectively end rodeo and related sports, according to Duquette.

“They claim that animals in rodeo would be tortured, but the only thing getting tortured is the truth,” says Duquette.

He says the current proposal that began in earnest about five years ago would also end barrel racing and bans the use of “fixed spurs and sharpened spurs.”

“No one uses sharpened spurs,” says Duquette. “You don’t purposely poke your horse or bull with something that will injure them.”

He describes the spurs used in PBR as “dull” and the only fixed spurs are used by the hunting and jumping community. “They wear what’s called a ‘post spur.’ How are [equestrian athletes] going to perform in the Olympics if you ban fixed spurs?”

Duquette says the ordinance “is a malicious deal” that a coalition stopped in Los Angeles in 2019 and “it’s similar to one we stopped in New York.”

“We had Zoom calls with every council member in summer 2021. The reality is Blumenfield got approval to draft a proposed ordinance with other council members giving courtesy votes.”

The Coalition Opposing the Ordinance

Duquette says the first professional rodeo was held in Los Angeles and led to the famous Rodeo Drive, although pronounced differently in Beverly Hills. The opposition coalition is racially inclusive.

Riding horses is popular throughout Los Angeles County, like in this Altadena neighborhoodDon Simkovich

The Western Justice coalition has 55 member organizations including the Charros; the Compton Cowboys, founded to introduce youth to horses instead of gangs; Bill Pickett’s All Black Invitational Rodeo; and the Indian National Finals Rodeo.

Los Angeles Equine Committee

The Board of Animal Services Commissioners will bring the ordinance up for a vote but didn’t seek “guidance or opinions of” the Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee (LAEAC) that was established in 2009, according to a letter from Dale Gibson, president of the LAEAC.

Gibson says his advisory committee wasn't consulted for input.Dale Gibson, LAEAC

Gibson references Wendy Greuel and Tom LaBonge who helped establish the committee. He says there are about 90,000 horses in the city and Los Angeles County. The equine industry is economically important with “roughly 12 people, or constituents, connected to each horse: family, veterinarians, farriers, trainers, tack stores, feed stores, truck sales, trailer sales, boarding facilities.”

What happens at rodeos

Critics say rodeos and the implements are damaging to the animal, but a horse used in top rodeos is valued at about $250,000.

“They work about a minute per year and live a great life in pastures. They’re bred to buck and most retire as a stud,” says Duquette.

Gibson notes that rodeo “animals are fed and cared for at the highest levels to ensure long careers. They are accorded a long and productive life in exchange for a few seconds of riding, bucking, or roping.

He says the sport benefits personal development and relationships between participants and the animals they care for.

“Equestrian sports are a healthy outdoor activity, promoting important emotional bonds, both between people and between humans and animals,” writes Gibson. “We on the LAEAC are proud of the family and youth that are out riding and caring for our equine friends and companions.

“Humans and animals have sustained mutually beneficial relationships for millennia. This Motion is seen by the LAEAC and the larger Equestrian Community as a slippery slope. Today, ban rodeos and youth gymkhanas, tomorrow every other equestrian Event: jumping, polo, dressage, western riding, and reining.”

Western Justice

Duquette is experienced in advocacy. He ran a national organization Protect the Harvest and he was instrumental in getting President Trump to pardon two ranchers in 2018.

Western Justice Legal Foundation is a membership-based, collaborative effort to educate lawmakers nationally and “preserve and protect the future of Western Sports events…and to substantiate the industry’s unified commitment to the welfare of animals.”

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA

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