Minnesota Should Ban Cruel Rodeo EventsPosted by Stephanie Ulmer, Guest Blogger on April 26, 2012
Steer tailing and horse tripping are tortuous events that have been banned in California and at least eight other states, according to a recent report by the Star Tribune, a local Minnesota newspaper. But, unfortunately, both events are legal in Minnesota, and they have found their way into local culture, especially in rural Dakota County. And this is causing much consternation among local animal humane officials and activists.
The Star Tribune describes horse tripping as an activity where a rider ropes the front legs of a galloping horse and pulls him or her down. Steer tailing, also called coleo or tail spinning, involves dragging animals down by their tails. Apparently about a dozen Mexican-style rodeos were held in several Dakota County locations last summer, mostly in the township of Vermillion.
Now the Vermillion town board has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the rodeos unless a horse show permit is obtained. The Star Tribune reported that the township’s suit in Dakota County District Court “describes tail spinning as a sporting competition ‘with contestants on horseback riding alongside running cattle, and the contestants grabbing hold of and pulling on the cattle’s tail while attempting to cause the cattle to fall to the ground and roll over.’” Sporting event? Does the town board really think that requiring the rodeos to obtain a horse show permit is going to change anything, or prevent any animal cruelty? What exactly do they seek to accomplish? It is obvious that the suit does not go far enough because the activities need to be prohibited, not “permitted.”
Keith Streff, senior humane officer for the Animal Humane Society, one of Minnesota’s two animal welfare enforcement officers, has stated that “Tail spinning is likely to injure a steer… 400- to 600-pound animals toppled while running near full speed have a high degree of probability they will be injured … they are not made to go down at that speed." Streff went on to say that if spinning consistently resulted in injury or death, that could be construed as criminally cruel, and that his office would look into that if a complaint were filed. But Streff also noted that it is very difficult to prove rodeo events are criminal unless there is proof that an animal has been killed or injured.
Raul Pliego, organizer of the Vermillion rodeos, said in his written response to the township suit that "spinning at his gatherings was a ‘game [that] was played for fun and the entertainment of those in attendance and not for money or reward.’" That does not change the fact that animals are being severely injured at the events. Pliego’s attorney has even characterized his client’s response to the suit as showing a pattern of “racist behavior by the neighbors that prevents [the Pliegos] from having family events and enjoying the use of their property."
It is time for the Minnesota State Legislature to step up and ban these rodeo activities. They are animal cruelty, plain and simple.