Friday, March 1, 2002

The Journal News (Mt. Vernon, NY)


Activists seek ban on rodeo

National group complains about cruelty to animals

Stacy Brown 

The Journal News


A national animal rights group has petitioned the Mount Vernon City Council asking that it bar the city from hosting rodeos.

The group, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, said the rodeo was more about cruelty than family fun.

Kiley Blackman, a local representative of SHARK, was among a group of Westchester residents who protested last year's three-day rodeo in Mount Vernon.  

Organizers of the rodeo are in talks with city officials about hosting another rodeo this year, but Council President Steven Horton said yesterday the city is not sure if the rodeo will return. 

Steve Hindi, president of the Illinois-based SHARK, said, "(Rodeos) abuse animals and take tame and domesticated animals and use pain and fear to make them act wild."  

Al Evans, a co-founder of Cowboy Mania, the group that hosted Mount Vernon's rodeo, said his event is all about entertaining and educating children and their families. "This is teaching children about their American ancestors through Western culture and horsemanship," Evans said.  

Evans said his rodeos never use cattle prods or other inhumane methods to stir up the animals. Evans said it is groups like SHARK that help keep rodeos honest. "They're the ones who find those unscrupulous cowboys who abuse animals," Evans said.  

Hindi said he doesn't believe there are any scruples when it comes to the rodeo.  

"Most bulls and horses aren't going to buck wildly on their own," Hindi said. "So rodeos use a prod or a stun gun to make them buck. It causes the animals a lot of pain and we want them to stop."  

Last month, the Greenburgh Town Board was preparing to ban traveling circuses and rodeos from municipal property, a move that would make Greenburgh the first town in Westchester County to legally prohibit the display of large animals in captivity for amusement purposes. The ban would not apply to school or private property.  

Town Supervisor Paul Feiner called it a "humanitarian issue."  

Though the Greenburgh law would set a precedent in Westchester, other municipalities around the country - such as Stamford, Conn., Hollywood, Fla., Southampton, N.Y., and Quincy, Mass. - have already prohibited big-animal shows.

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