The city of Santa Barbara is gearing up to celebrate its 90th annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta. For several days there are wonderful displays of authentic Mexican music, dancing, cuisine, exhibits and other delightful forms of entertainment. Although Old Spanish Days commemorates the time influenced by our Spanish forefathers, there is one tradition that comes every year with Fiesta that I do not find amusing, the rodeo.

The Fiesta Stock Horse Show and Rodeo in Santa Barbara includes events such as bull riding, tie-down roping, team roping, steer stopping, and mutton bustin’. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), rodeos mean constant trauma for the animals forced to participate. Many animals suffer broken ribs, backs, and legs, torn tails, punctured lungs, internal organ damage, ripped tendons, torn ligaments, snapped necks, and suffer agonizing deaths. Animals are often transported in overcrowded trucks and trailers, and they may be confined for as long as 24 hours without being properly fed or watered, according to the rules of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). The ALDF states that ropers may cripple as many as 3-4 animals a day while practicing for their “performance.” California is no exception. According to the Santa Barbara animal welfare group Animal Emancipation, over a dozen animals were killed during California rodeos between 1995-2001.

Animal welfare groups believe that animals are physically provoked during rodeos in order to make the cowboys appear more impressive in their performances. There are several tools that are used to produce these performances. The ALDF states that these tools include the “hotshot,” an electric prod used on an animal while captive in the chute. The intense pain scares the animal into displaying abnormally dramatic reactions. Other tools include metal spurs and “bucking straps” that burn the animal’s abdomen and groin area and cause him to “buck” and can lead to back and leg injuries. Thankfully, California has banned the use of electric prods while animals are in the chutes, but metal spurs and bucking straps are still commonly used.

During another event called steer busting, a rider ropes a steer with such force that the steer flips in the air. The injury and death rate is so high that certain states, such as Nevada, forbid it from the National Finals Rodeo, calling it too dangerous to the animals.

Calf roping is another event that causes undue distress. According to the ALDF, a mounted rider yanks a calf into the air by his neck, slams him into the ground, and ties his legs together. The ALDF states, “During this performance, calves may cry out (if they can breathe), defecate from fear and stress, and suffer neck injuries and death.” I spoke with Barbara, a Santa Barbara resident, who used to attend the rodeo with her husband. She told me that while the barrel racing was fun to watch and the horses seemed to enjoy it, there were many events, such as calf roping, which would make her cringe. Not only were calves violently jerked at the neck while running at top speeds, but then they were brutally thrown on the ground after their legs were tied together. Barbara said that she never could understand why that was considered entertainment.

Paula Kislak, D.V.M., from Santa Barbara says that not only are animals treated inhumanely during the actual rodeo event, there are countless others who are injured or die during the training process. Kislak stated, “The dirty little secrets are the numbers of animals used and discarded in the cruel training process and the many that are disabled, in pain and then killed after the event has left town.”

If you feel the rodeo shouldn’t be part of our otherwise wonderful Old Spanish Days celebration, start by not attending the rodeo and then ask our elected officials to no longer invite this shameful event to be part of our celebration. You can also be part of a protest: Friday, August 1-Saturday, August 2, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday, August 3, 1 p.m. at the corner of Las Positas and Calle Real.

Adoptable Pet of the Week

Moto is a two-year-old male Great Dane/German Shepherd mix who is looking for a loving home. Moto is a big, handsome guy that needs an experienced dog owner to help him build some confidence. He would prefer to be the only four-legged friend in the house and would do best with older children. Moto is a very loving and devoted pooch and will make a great best friend to his new owner(s). Come in and visit Moto today!

For more information on adopting, visit the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road, or call 805-964-4777. Shelter hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. You can also visit to check out more adoptable pets.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions,


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