Local animal rights advocates are voicing concerns over possible changes to the definition of animal cruelty in the city of North Las Vegas.
Opposition to horse roping rodeo events was revived this week after animal rights advocates voiced concerns over a proposed amendment to the definition of animal cruelty in North Las Vegas.
The amendment would have allowed the tripping of cattle as well as rodeo roping events.
It was taken off the City Council agenda after officials received complaints.
The city now prohibits anyone from trying to “intentionally trip or fell” cattle or horses, which could hinder U.S. and Mexican rodeo events.
North Las Vegas Assistant City Manager Ryann Juden said the change would align the city more closely with nearby cities that allow the intentional tripping of bovine animals.
While some animal rights advocates say loosening the restrictions would unnecessarily hurt animals for a quick buck, supporters say Mexican rodeo events are being unfairly targeted and argue that the potential economic gains could benefit the struggling city.
Las Vegas prohibits horse tripping, and Clark County also prohibits horse roping events.
Roping a horse’s front legs is crucial to some Mexican rodeo events. The county ban was intended to protect horses from being pulled down by their legs.
Alejandro Galindo, president of the Mexican American Rodeo Association, said the “intentional tripping” ban was redundant because his organization banned it from U.S. events decades ago. The only horse roping events allowed involve lassoing the horse's front legs in a catch-and-release style, Galindo said.
Neither Las Vegas nor the county bans the roping of cattle, which is integral to American rodeo events such as “team roping” and “calf roping” in which animals are intentionally brought down.
Under the city’s current municipal code, it's unclear if an event like the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, held annually at the Thomas & Mack Center, could take place in North Las Vegas.
Cindy Schonholtz, director of Industry Outreach for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which hosts the popular NFR event, said the organization has never had an attorney look into the plausibility of a North Las Vegas rodeo.
North Las Vegas had a rodeo at the Silver Nugget during the 1970s, but strict ordinances have prevented them in recent years, according to former Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins.
Collins, the lone dissenting voice in a 2013 county vote that scrapped a proposal that would have added some horse roping events, said he has been pushing North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee for years to bring rodeo events to the city.
North Las Vegas City Councilman Isaac Barron said he expects the council to revisit the issue.
“There is gonna be a market for charrería, I think,” said Barron, referring to the Mexican rodeo events, called charreadas.
Barron, who remembers going to Silver Nugget rodeos as a kid, said he would love to see a small regional rodeo in North Las Vegas.
Mexican and U.S. rodeos both showcase horse riding and bull riding events, but charreadas tend to emphasize style over speed.
Charreadas have faced criticism in Clark County before.
In 2013, the World Series of Charrería was set to take place at the South Point, but organizers canceled after they failed to get an exception to a ban on events that involved roping a horse's legs. Series organizers had expected to draw more than 15,000.
Stacia Newman, president of Nevada Political Action for Animals, argued the city could hurt its image if the amendment had gone through.
“North Las Vegas doesn’t have to stoop this low, to torture animals for a few extra bucks,” Newman said.
Galindo argued that American rodeo events also lead to animal harm but that the charreada community lacks the political power and sponsors of the bigger rodeo organizations.
Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, said rodeo animals can get hurt from poor training, rough handling and overbreeding for specific traits.
Grandin said events in which animals are jerked to the ground can cause severe damage and noted that some rodeo events now impose penalties for jerking a calf.
U.S. rodeos also went through changes over the past century to shed an animal cruelty image, said Richard Slatta, a North Carolina professor who has written extensively about rodeos.
One particular event that was changed in U.S. rodeos was steer roping, Slatta said.
Most sanctioned events now use small calves instead of massive steers, which sometimes broke their necks after being roped, Slatta said.
“Ultimately it comes down to, who does have more political clout at the local level,” he said.