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Rabbits exempt from this year's Animal Scramble

Posted: Wednesday, Jul 3rd, 2013

Those hoping to catch a rabbit at this year’s Cottage Grove Rodeo will have to change their plans.

The Rodeo will still take place as scheduled on Friday, July 12 and Saturday, July 13, though the Animal Scramble, an event that has recently drawn the intense scrutiny of animal rights activists, will now showcase a different setup. And the Rodeo may also draw some less-than-welcome guests.

Last summer, a video of the Animal Scramble, in which rabbits were let loose in the rodeo arena for a large group of hopeful youngsters to catch, went viral and unleashed a firestorm of criticism on the Cottage Grove Riding Club, which organizes the Rodeo. This year, the Scramble will take place as scheduled, according to Riding Club President Kelli Fisher, though kids will only “scramble” for a group of about 80 chickens. An egg hunt will be held to determine the new owners of about 25 rabbits, Fisher said, and kids who participate in the Scramble will only be allowed to walk.

Fisher said the changes come in response to a complaint to the United States Department of Agriculture by Red Barn Rabbit Rescue, a Creswell-based center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of domestic rabbits. Red Barn founder Heather Crippen said she and her daughter attended and taped the Animal Scramble in 2012 and posted the video to the Internet.

“We went to the Rodeo in 2012 and taped it, and we were mortified by what we saw,” Crippen said. “It’s just cruel…the whole thing is awful for rabbits. Anything over 80 degrees is too hot for rabbits, first of all. They put them all together in a horse trailer, and rabbits can mate in three seconds, so someone who thought they were getting one rabbit may end up with 10. It was horrific; there’s no way to make it a pleasant event for the animals.”

In recent years, the Scramble has also drawn criticism from the Cottage Grove Humane Society, whose Janetta Overholser said the group has heard many stories of animals treated inhumanely after they were caught during the Scramble.

“We’ve heard too many stories,” Overholser said. “There was the kid who got a rabbit and didn’t know what to do with it, so they put it in a box on the back porch and it died. I heard on the Swap n’ Shop (KNND’s radio program) about a father whose kid got a rooster but he couldn’t keep it because he lived in the city limits. I was told about a neighbor who liberated the rabbits after they caught them, and that’s not acceptable. They (the Riding Club) will tell you stories about the kids who got a rabbit and took good care of it, but they all deserve that, and they don’t all get it.”

Fisher said the Animal Scramble video viewed by many on Youtube showcased only the worst aspects of the event, adding that it also led to intimidating tactics undertaken by many in an attempt to get it stopped.

“They didn’t talk to a single kid who had gotten a rabbit,” Fisher said. “Every kid who got a rabbit got a care form that talked about how to care for the rabbit. My personal phone number was on that form, but nobody called me. The things they said about rabbits having a broken jaw or having no tail after the Scramble, there’s no way that any of that happened. People have been releasing private phone numbers of people on our Board and calling with death threats. They’ve been stalking members of our Board at work.”

Fisher said activists followed the Riding Club’s secretary from her workplace and that activists and news reporters sat by the woman’s car to approach her about the Scramble.

“We’ve gotten calls threatening our kids saying things like ‘I’m going to come to your house and pounce on your child,’ using the same kind of language they use to describe the Scramble,” she said.

Fisher said the Riding Club received word from the USDA last spring that the Scramble could not include rabbits. She said the Club has been visited at Board meetings by representatives of Red Barn and the Cottage Grove Humane Society and added that a recent email from Crippen caused the Riding Club to seek legal representation.

“URGENT!! We are your only hope!” the email stated. “Despite our efforts to discourage physical protest we are getting animals rights supporters threatening to picket and confront board members during your 2013 rodeo. The latest was a request from PETA to have our video for a nationwide plea. 

Our next step depends on your reply! Our intent is not to make your rodeo a horrible experience. We simply want the animal scramble removed from the schedule because it is cruel. We have made numerous attempts to make our point and communicate with the Riding Club. We are your best chance to stop the protestors and picketing…”

For the complete article see the 07-03-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 07-03-2013 paper.

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