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June 20, 2013
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Guest column: South Douglas Rodeo should discontinue Rabbit Scramble

The so-called Rabbit Scramble featured in the South Douglas Rodeo in Myrtle Creek is cruel, irresponsible and puts animals at an unreasonable risk of serious harm. The event is not sanctioned or promoted by mainstream rodeo organizations and should be permanently scrapped.

The Rabbit Scramble involves releasing dozens of tame, domestic rabbits into the rodeo arena, with the audience cheering on a large group of children as they chase and catch them. Children who catch a rabbit are allowed to take them home and keep them.

Rabbits are fragile, sensitive creatures who easily succumb to fear, shock and exhaustion. The experience of being surrounded by loud noises, hot summer days, and crowds of strangers is terrifying.

When we observed this year’s event, we saw many rabbits who appeared to be in a state of shock and frozen in fear, even as the crowd of kids bore down on them. Rabbits are easily injured if they are grabbed, tackled, squeezed and clutched by little hands that don’t know the right way to hold these delicate animals.

Awarding a live animal as “prize” is at odds with responsible pet ownership. Children should be taught that acquiring a pet is a serious responsibility that requires much thought and consideration.

A pet involves a lot of work and years of commitment to the animal’s happiness and well-being. Contrary to popular belief, rabbits do not make suitable pets for very young children. Rabbits usually do not enjoy being held, have strict dietary requirements, and have an average life span of up to 10 years. They are social animals who prefer the company of their own kind; living alone in a cage or hutch can be a frustrating, lonely life for a rabbit.

Unfortunately, many families are unprepared to give these rabbits the care that they need, and inevitably, too many are neglected, abandoned or surrendered to local animal shelters and humane societies.

In fact, rabbit rescue groups and animal shelters report an influx of rabbits within days or weeks of these events, after the novelty wears off and the reality of caring for the animal sets in.

This puts a strain on nonprofit and taxpayer-funded public shelters and, sadly, results in too many animals being euthanized due to lack of space and available homes.

We urge the South Douglas Rodeo to do the right thing and cancel any future plans for a Rabbit Scramble.

Doing so would demonstrate that the rodeo genuinely cares about the welfare of its animals, and is doing its part to help kids develop a healthy perspective on what it means to be responsible and compassionate pet owners.

Scott Beckstead of Sutherlin is senior Oregon director for the The Humane Society of the United States. He can be reached at sbeckstead@humanesociety.org. Heather Crippen of Creswell is president of Red Barn Rabbit Rescue. She can be reached at heather@redbarnrabbitrescue.org.

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The News-Review Updated Jun 20, 2013 05:37PM Published Jun 20, 2013 05:37PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.