Small animals shouldn’t be given away as prizes, according to Heather Crippen of Red Barn Rabbit Rescue (RBRR), who has been working along with her daughter to stop bunnies from being chased and caught at the Cottage Grove Rodeo. RBRR has also been working on developing an ordinance that would stop bunnies, chickens and other small animals from being the trophies at giveaways and contests. Crippen brought the idea before the Lane County Animal Services Advisory Committee on July 8 and is also considering city and statewide regulations.
The “animal scramble” scheduled to take place at this weekend’s Cottage Grove Rodeo July 12-13 raised controversy after Crippen and her daughter videoed the event last year. In the past, the event had children running after the bunnies and taking one home if they caught it. Crippen says the event is both cruel and negligent.
This year, after months of controversy and an issue with USDA regulations, the Cottage Grove Riding Club, which organizes the scramble, will instead pursue chickens and plastic eggs, and the children will be told to walk. Children will still win rabbits. Crippen says “kudos to the riding club” for the changes, but she adds, “I feel like it’s a step sideways.” She wonders how organizers will keep more than 100 children from running. She also says she doesn’t know what effect it will have on the chickens.
Crippen says that she’s been accused of not seeing the positive angle to the event — that kids learn to care for a rabbit — but she says while that might be true, it would be even more positive if kids adopted a rescue rabbit, already spayed or neutered, and got to choose it based on its personality. Like dogs or cats, Crippen says bunnies can be outgoing, shy or opinionated. She says it can cost $200 to spay or neuter a bunny, which can have six to 12 kits in a litter. The adoption fee is $50 at RBRR.
Commissioner Jay Bozievich, who serves on the animal services committee, says he gave advice on language for an ordinance and also suggested it be taken to the state level. He says, “I offered to help make some calls to legislators to help.”
Fellow Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson called giving animals as prizes “barbaric,” and says he is advocating for an ordinance because, “How we treat animals is a reflection of how we treat each other.”
Crippen says with Eugene’s new ordinance allowing more animals for backyard farming — up to five rabbits — she worries that there might be more instances in which animals are prizes, gotten on impulse.
While Red Barn Rabbit Rescue has concentrated on crafting an ordinance — Crippen says she is a rabbit advocate, not an activist — other groups and concerned citizens will be protesting at the rodeo. Eugene’s Civil Liberties Defense Center, which recently provided legal observers for protesters at the Eugene Pro Rodeo, will also provide legal observers at the Cottage Grove Rodeo this weekend. One of the observers at the Eugene event had water tossed on her from a car, but the CLDC says event staff stopped the car and ejected the thrower, who was reportedly a bull rider, from the event for his conduct. For more information on being a legal observer, contact cldc.org.