City rodeo bill may not have an easy ride Animal protection groups are opposed to measure

March 10, 1998|By Sheila Hotchkin | Sheila Hotchkin,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A Catonsville man who competes in bull-riding competitions wants to put on a rodeo in Baltimore.

But Nicholas Citro Jr., a paramedic and restaurant worker, must overcome a city ordinance forbidding the use of flank straps, bucking straps and spurs -- rodeo accessories designed to make the animals buck.

The ban makes the shows virtually impossible.

A bill before the City Council, introduced by Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, could change that. The measure, inspired by Citro's plans, seeks to allow bucking straps, fleece-lined flank straps and dulled spurs.

"If we can win here, it would be a big win for rodeo," Citro said.

But at a hearing last month before the council's Health and Environment Committee, the bill was opposed by animal protection groups, including the Maryland Animal Protection Coalition, the Humane Society of the United States and the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition.

The city's health department also opposes the bill.

Mark Rifkin of the Maryland Animal Protection Coalition voiced concerns ranging from the bruising caused by spurs and straps to the illegal electric prods he said are often used.

"They're not nearly quite the angelic industry they portray themselves to be," Rifkin said.

Wendy Royalty, director of legislative affairs for the city's health department, said after the hearing that rodeos are cruel to animals and that Baltimore's children do not need to be exposed to them.

After talking with consulting veterinarians, Jerome Ferguson, acting director for the Bureau of Animal Control, concluded that the straps can irritate animals and potentially injure them.

Bell said he sponsored the bill in what he called an attempt to expose inner-city children to the same kinds of entertainment available to others their age.

Citro was supported at the hearing by Maryland stock contractors, who rent out horses and bulls for the competitions, and a representative of the Colorado-based Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

Chip Ridgely, a Glenwood rodeo organizer who supported the bill, said he wanted to make sure no one thought the animals were being abused. "Having grown up with livestock all my life, I would oppose anyone who mistreats an animal," he said.

Cindy Schonholtz of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association said rodeos are in cities nationwide, including Houston; St. Paul, Minn.; and Syracuse, N.Y.

Citro said rodeos are held in Maryland, including the counties of Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Harford. Competitions are gaining popularity on the Eastern Shore, he said.

But the hearing left city-dwelling council members confused.

"I grew up in the city," said Councilman John L. Cain, the committee's chairman and a Democrat who represents the 1st District. "I've always lived in the city. I love concrete and asphalt."

Pub Date: 3/10/98

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