LA City Council votes on rodeo ban with protesters on horseback outside City Hall

Riders on horseback assembled outside Los Angeles City Hall where the City Council considered the future of rodeos in the city.

Animal rights advocates also gathered outside City Hall ahead of the council’s approval of a motion that calls for an ordinance banning rodeos in city limits. The council also decided to carve out exemptions for certain cultural and traditional equestrian events

Council members voted 14-0, with Councilwoman Nithya Raman absent, in favor of a motion instructing the city attorney to amend city law to define and prohibit “rodeos,” as well as “harmful practices, techniques and devices or rodeo-related events.

“Isn’t this Los Angeles? Are we not the City of Angels, the compassionate city that leads? We usually set the trends. Not this time,” said Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who introduced the motion in 2021. “But this time, we have an opportunity to catch up.”

On another 14-0 vote, the council also approved an amendment to the motion, by Blumenfield and Monica Rodriguez. It’s intended to carve out protections for cultural and traditional equestrian events such as Charrería, predominantly practiced by Latinos and a tradition in Mexican and western United States livestock herding communities, among other activities.

A City Council committee passed a proposed ordinance in December 2022 that would have prohibited the use of electric prods or shocking devices, flank or bucking straps, wire tiedowns, and sharpened or fixed spurs or rowels at “all rodeo or rodeo related events” in Los Angeles. The full council never voted on the ordinance, instead switching the focus to an outright ban.

“There’s no damage done to these horses,” said Juan Diaz, seated atop his horse Tuesday outside City Hall. “These horses are out life. We care for these animals as if they were our family. So, if it dies out… where’s our heritage going?”

Rodriguez said that if the city were to approve a blanket ban on rodeos, it could directly impact communities of color.

“I’m actually really grateful in that this ordinance has unified communities of color that are supportive of equine-keeping practices,” Rodriguez said prior to the vote. “This rich cultural tradition that has unified all of our communities because it is something that we all gravitate to is something that is really well celebrated.”

The proposed ordinance will next head to the council’s Neighborhoods and Community Enrichment Committee — with that three-member panel considering the city attorney’s draft ordinance, Blumenfield said.

Rodriguez said she was disappointed there wasn’t expertise or input from stakeholders in drafting the proposed ordinance to fully understand the implications of what the affected events are, or what they entail.

“I want this to go back to committee for the purposes of really having a very firm technical understanding of how this could potentially be misinterpreted and applied to communities of color,” Rodriguez said. “This has to invite our communities to be part of that conversation, so that we can fully appreciate it.”

A rodeo band would end the annual Los Angeles appearance by the Professional Bull Riders tour, which has events at Arena in February. The two-day PBR stop in early 2023 drew 12,529 fans for its Saturday night event, with about 20 animal rights demonstrators outside the arena.

PBR events focus on bull riding and do not include other traditional rodeo events. The tour has fought back against complaints of cruelty, running an ad prior to its 2023 tour stop that stated: “Buck the L.A. City Council. The Only Thing Being Tortured is the Truth.”

“PBR bulls are extraordinary athletes born to buck who get great care and are protected by stringent rules and guidelines ensuring their safety and well-being. Attempting to ban our sport is based on rampant misinformation, is culturally insensitive, and completely unnecessary,” Andrew Giangola, a representative for PBR, said in a statement Tuesday.

NBCLA’s Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

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