LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A Los Angeles City Council committee passed a proposed ordinance Wednesday that would effectively ban rodeos in the city, after hearing passionate public comment on the issue from animal rights advocates and rodeo defenders.
The ordinance passed by the council’s Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare committee bans the use of electric prods, shocking devices, flank or bucking straps, wire tie-downs, sharpened or fixed spurs and rowels from rodeos or similar events.
“The torture tools that are used on these innocent beings is a horrendous, barbaric practice that needs to be to be updated and for us to look down at and say, ‘How did we even practice this?’” Annie Abram of Los Angeles for Animals told the committee. “... We know animals feel pain, suffer, hurt, love and want to live and be safe and free, just like you and me. It is our obligation to protect the most vulnerable.”
Dr. David Remy, president of the LA Equine Advisory Council, a group formed by the City Council to advise on equestrian matters, raised concerns that the proposed city law could have unintended consequences for activities such as movie shoots and equestrian events at the upcoming 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“It would be a simple matter for you to write an ordinance banning rodeo. ... we would not be in support of that, but our concern is that as written this is just not a well-written ordinance and those of us that have expertise that you’ve appointed specifically for this purpose would be more than happy to consult with you in drafting a more appropriate, more narrow and more helpful ordinance,” Remy said.
The ordinance was modeled after Pittsburgh’s 1992 ordinance, which banned the same tools and has worked well in its 30 years of enforcement, according to city officials.
“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.”
The city attorney finalized the language of the proposed ban in December 2021. It must return for a final vote of the City Council and then approval by the mayor.
Wednesday’s debate came on the same day the Los Angeles Times published a report that documented 125 injuries to rodeo animals in California since a state law went into effect in 2001 requiring rodeos to have a veterinarian present or on call. Some of the injuries were minor, but some were gruesome, including crushed skulls, broken legs, gored flanks and snapped spines.
The story cited two instances in which attending veterinarians were prevented from treating a badly injured animal by rodeo staff.
Rodeo proponents say that such injuries represent a miniscule percentage of the animals involved in the events. Douglas Corey, chairman of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assn.’s livestock welfare committee, told the Times that fewer than 0.05% of animals used in rodeos are injured.
City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who co-authored the motion that passed Wednesday, said the number of 135 reported by the newspaper is not an accurate picture of the sport’s danger. It’s “just what was sent in,” he told The Times. “This stuff hardly gets reported. I would have to believe it’s a vast undercount.”
Supporters of the ban say even the small number of catastrophic injuries are unacceptable, and that the sport’s practices are inherently cruel, citing events such as calf roping, bull riding and bronc riding, which they say terrorize animals. Calf roping — in which baby cows are forcibly tackled to the ground and hog-tied — is an event many activists consider exceptionally cruel.
Rodeos use tools such as spurs, straps and electric prods to make horses and bulls buck. Defenders of the practice say the animals are already inclined to buck and the tools just give them a cue. But animal advocates say horses and bulls do not buck naturally, and that “bucking straps” are tied so tightly around the flanks of the animals, they are forced to buck in an attempt to relieve the discomfort.
Some speakers at Wednesday’s meeting, including a representative for Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, expressed concerns that the ordinance’s wording about “similar events” might cause confusion or even prohibit the Mexican and Mexican-American practice of Charreria, which arises from equestrian activities and livestock traditions used in the haciendas of old Mexico.
But proponents said traditional equestrian events would not be banned, just the use of certain implements deemed cruel.
Sean Gleason, CEO and commissioner of Professional Bull Riders Inc., which stages an annual event at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles, 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 LA,” Gleason told City News Service previously.