Representatives of the Langley Riders Society came to township council on Monday June 13 to fend off animal rights groups demanding the event not take place.
John Scotton, director of the society for 45 years, said the Langley Riders have held 55 Little Britches rodeos as well as high school rodeos and BC Rodeo Association-sanctioned events over the years.
“To my knowledge, in all these years, no animal cruelty issue has been presented to us,” Scotton said.
The new rodeo event is scheduled for the Labor Day long weekend in September and is intended to have bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding and barrel racing. There will be no stringing events.
“As a society, we are very strict about our safety,” he said.
Animals used in the planned rodeo will be “professional animals,” Scotton said.
“This stock is worth thousands of dollars,” he said. “As such, it would be morally and financially very foolish to mistreat these beautiful creatures.”
Scotton and James Delorme, a former Klahoose First Nation chief, were on council to speak after the Humane Society and BC SPCA spoke out against hosting the rodeo, saying they were distressing the animals .
Delorme, whose father rodeoed, said there will be Indigenous participation in this event through Langley riders.
He invited the SPCA to come to their events.
“Of course we are concerned about animals,” he said.
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Barrel riders will bring their own animals, but other horses and bulls will be provided by the rodeo.
Emily Pickett of the Vancouver Humane Society also spoke at the board meeting.
“The VHS opposes inhumane rodeo events that subject animals to fear, discomfort, pain and stress in order to perform them for public entertainment,” Pickett said.
The SPCA also spoke out against the planned rodeo.
Township councilors asked Scotton questions about the scale of the rodeo, with Councilor Kim Richter asking if it was intended to replace the Cloverdale Rodeo, which has not been held for three years due to COVID- 19.
“I hope eventually, but to begin with, no,” Scotton said.
The plan is to expand bleachers at the Brookswood rodeo site with the help of Thunderbird Show Park, and there is ample parking thanks to agreements with nearby landowners, he said.
Delorme said that in addition to Indigenous attendees at the rodeo events, there will also be Indigenous cultural events, food and craft vendors on site during the event.
At the end of the meeting, Richter requested that township staff write a report on regulating the size and scope of the event, as well as eliminating any activity that causes animal cruelty.
Mayor Jack Froese noted there may be jurisdictional issues and staff may need to figure out exactly what they can regulate.
“I am very concerned about the scope of this particular event,” Richter said. “I’m not convinced this particular site can handle it.”
“I don’t see how they can have enough parking spaces on site,” the councilor said. Petrina Arnasson.
Com. Bob Long said he trusted the Langley Riders Society to put on the event. “I don’t think the board needs to get involved.”
Com. Blair Whitmarsh asked if there were any standards for the number of parking spaces and toilets for the expected crowd size.
Special event permits are required for larger events, township superintendent Mark Bakken said, but animal cruelty issues fall under the jurisdiction of the BC SPCA. The council could notify the SPCA of the event, he said.
The site’s zoning allows for these types of events and does not limit event sizes, Bakken said. Council could decide to “shrink the area” of the site, but that process requires a bylaw and a public hearing.
Richter’s motion for a staff report passed by a vote of five to three.
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