Clark County commissioners on a 3-3 vote Tuesday rejected a proposed four-day moratorium that would have allowed horses to be roped by the legs during an upcoming Mexican rodeo event.
The moratorium would have temporarily lifted the county’s ban on roping horses by the legs from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29, when the World Series Charreria Event is scheduled at South Point Arena and Equestrian Center.
Commissioners Tom Collins, Chris Giunchigliani and Lawrence Weekly voted for the moratorium. Commissioners Susan Brager, Steve Sisolak and Mary Beth Scow voted against it.
The issue attracted almost three hours of testimony from dozens of people, with animal rights activists pitted against charreria supporters. Supporters of the moratorium said horse roping is safe and doesn’t harm equines, while activists contended it’s too dangerous and can trip equines, leading to painful injuries and even death.
The county plans to form a working group to explore the issue further, though it won’t be making a decision in time for the September rodeo.
The county’s current ordinance is stricter than state law. It forbids roping horses by the legs, regardless of whether there is an intent to trip them. Nevada lawmakers approved legislation this session that bans roping the legs of equines with the intent to trip them. That law allowed counties to issue permits for horse roping events where animals are roped by the legs and released without the intent of tripping them.
Collins, who supports charreria events, said opponents have misperceptions about horse roping. The intent is not to trip the animals and harm them because then the horse cannot be used again, he noted.
“I would like to see a little more recognition and tolerance of how people can participate with livestock safety.”
This isn’t the county’s first aim at the horse roping issue. Earlier this month, commissioners considered and rejected an ordinance that would have allowed horse roping at events with a county permit and oversight.
After the working group makes its recommendations, commissioners could consider another ordinance that allows horse roping, possibly in October.
In arguing for the proposed moratorium, Giunchigliani said allowing the September event to go forward would give the public a chance to witness horse roping firsthand.
At the Aug. 6 meeting, when the proposal allowing permitted horse roping died, only one side of the debate showed up to weigh in, she said.
Opponents were the bulk of people testifying then. This time, both sides spoke, with commission Chairman Steve Sisolak frequently reminding the audience not to applaud.
Luis Banuelos, of El Paso, Texas-based World’s Best Charro Events, planned the September rodeo. He stressed his commitment to roping horses without tripping. He said he has encouraged those involved in rodeos in Mexico to not trip the equines.
Janette Ureno of Las Vegas, a supporter of horse roping events, said it’s an important part of Mexican culture. She said it’s not the only equine event with the potential to harm a horse.
“There’s a risk in everything,” she said, giving horse races as an example.
Another supporter, Viridiana Colon of North Las Vegas, said the horses are valued and loved.
Opponents came out in force.
“Our community is a very compassionate community on animal welfare issues,” said Stacia Newman, president of Nevada Political Action for Animals. “This is clearly an animal cruelty issue. It doesn’t matter who’s doing it as long as it’s being done. It’s not a culture issue.”
If exceptions are made, she said, the county should consider cock fighting and dog fighting.
Gerald Huff, a veterinarian, pleaded with commissioners not to allow horse roping, saying, “The truth of the matter is, when you chase a horse around an arena and rope its legs, you’re terrorizing the animal.”
Mark Hinds reflected that sentiment about dog fights and cock fights.
Of the horses, he said, “We may as well be taking a knife and slitting their throat.”
Collins disputed the argument that horse roping is akin to dog fights and cock fights. Fights between dogs and cocks are dirty and bloody, while roping is not, he said.
Commissioner Larry Brown, who was absent, had asked to be excused for a family event.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@review journal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.