Jul 29, 2014

PETA Sues to Stop Riverside County 'Running of the Bulls' Themed Race

However, officials with The Great Bull Run tell Patch they're confident PETA's claims will be dismissed by a judge.

PETA Sues to Stop Riverside County 'Running of the Bulls' Themed Race
Animal advocates with PETA and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) have filed a suit against the company behind a bull-running themed race that's scheduled to stampede through the Temecula area this summer.

" The Great Bull Run" promises participants "the rush of a lifetime" during a June 21 running-of-the-bulls at Galway Downs, in which 1,500 pound bulls head down a quarter-mile long course with runners.

Though the animal rights groups say that the event causes "unnecessary stress and suffering" to the animals, The Great Bull Run maintains they've done everything to ensure the safety of both the bulls, and runners.

"I can unequivocally state that no bulls are harmed during our events," the event's Chief Operating Officer, Rob Dickens, said in a letter shared with Patch.  "In fact, we've taken numerous measures to ensure our bulls remain safe and healthy at all times, which has resulted in zero injuries to our bulls at the three events we've had to date."

Some of the things Dickens says organizers do to ensure animal safety include: 
  • Bulls are ran on only dirt or grass, to prevent slips. ("We even took the extraordinary measure of laying down a quarter-mile of dirt on top of the paved track at our first event in Virginia, a $50,000 expense, solely to protect the bulls," he said.)
  • A veterinarian is on site at all times to monitor the health and treatment of the bulls.
  • A professional rodeo company was hired by the organizers to completely manage the handling, training ans care of the bulls.
Despite this, PETA says the extreme sporting event is animal cruelty. 

"This case is the first lawsuit filed to stop the Great Bull Run, which has received widespread outcry across the United States," a PETA press release states.  "According to the lawsuit, these events violate California’s anti-cruelty law and Unfair Competition Law."

"As a bovine veterinarian, I can confirm that this event is extremely stressful for the bulls and presents substantial risk of injury to them, as well as an enormous public safety risk to the humans participating,” said Dr. Holly Cheever, veterinarian and vice president of the New York State Humane Association.

According to Dickens, both the Humane Society and the Animal Legal Defense Fund tried to stop the first Great Bull Run in Virginia, last August.

In that case, the USDA— who was contacted to stop the race on allegations of Animal Welfare Act violations— found that because it was a "rodeo-type" event, they were exempt from AWA regulation, according to a letter from the USDA obtained by Patch.

If the event goes on as planned, an estimated three dozen bulls will run with some 4,500 participants, according to organizers.  An additional 4,000 people are expected to head out just to watch.

And as for human injuries, organizers say there have been very few.

"... Of the more than 10,000 runners who have participated in our events thus far, only three were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the worst of which was a broken wrist," Dickens said.

Even if the PETA case is dismissed, The Great Bull Run faces another obstacle with the permitting process by the County of Riverside.

As of Friday afternoon, Riverside County officials tell Patch that an application for a permit had yet to be filed with the county.

"Information required as part of a temporary outdoor event application would have to clearly describe the event and requires approval from law enforcement and fire officials,"  County Spokesman Ray Smith said in  a February announcement.  "An application also must take into account the effects that traffic and other issues would have on nearby roads and surrounding areas. Riverside County has serious concerns about the public-safety and planning-review issues of an event that size, hurdles would be difficult to overcome."

Even if the permit isn't obtained for the Temecula location, runners can still expect the show to go on, though.

"If for some reason we are unable to get those permits, we’ll move the event to a venue in Los Angeles county," Dickens told Patch.

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