This summer’s “animal scramble” at the Cottage Grove Rodeo appalled animal lovers, who say the rabbits used in the event can be hurt or even killed. The Cottage Grove Riding Club, which puts on the scramble, said at a Sept. 10 board meeting that the event prevents the rabbits from being slaughtered for meat.
Heather Crippen and her daughter Alex, who founded and run Red Barn Rabbit Rescue in Creswell, have been working to stop the animal scramble, which was held July 14. Heather Crippen says they initially looked into working to make the event more rabbit-friendly, but “it’s just not an appropriate situation for a rabbit to be in.” The Crippens’ video of the event shows bunnies being dumped out of a trailer, a rabbit being flung through the air and rows of screaming children bearing down on a cluster of bunnies paralyzed with fear.
Red Barn Rabbit Rescue sent letters to the board members of the Cottage Grove Riding Club, but did not get any response, Heather Crippen says. She worries that angry and threatening messages the riding club received from some animal advocates not associated with Red Barn might have made starting a dialogue more difficult. Crippen and Scott Beckstead, Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States, met with Lane County Commissioner Faye Stewart to discuss their concerns about the animal scramble. Crippen says the stress of being thrown from a horse trailer and chased and grabbed by screaming children is enough to kill a rabbit. New rabbit owners might not recognize the symptoms in time, she says. The riding club, which has not responded to a request for comment, said at its board meeting that it gives the children a care sheet.
Stewart is not in favor of a county ordinance against such events, but met with a representative of the riding club to discuss Red Barn and the Humane Society’s concerns, Crippen says. When the riding club did not respond to a request for a neutral meeting through Stewart, Heather, Alex and Dillon Crippen (who took notes) came to the board meeting. Stewart says, “I was emailed by one of the riding club members last night and they said they heard from Red Barn Rabbit Rescue and that they were going to try to work out an agreement.”
Red Barn and the Cottage Grove Humane Society offered to raise the money to hide $100 bills in three eggs and then mix them in with other plastic eggs for kids to hunt in an “egg scramble,” but Crippen says the riding club was not interested in the offer. The club said at the meeting that it’s the Cottage Grove community that wants the scramble and that rodeo profits triple when the event is scheduled. Crippen says she has asked the riding club to give her the exact numbers of people who leave the rodeo if the event is not scheduled, and she will raise the money to pay the club the amount it would cost them to not have the event. Alex Crippen noted that if the riding club were to switch to another event, like the egg scramble, then all the kids whose parents won’t let them participate because they are not allowed to have a pet rabbit could be in the event, and, Heather Crippen says, some of those kids go home with $100 instead of a 10-year commitment to taking care of a rabbit.
Crippen says she has also spoken with Commissioner Pete Sorenson and state Sen. Floyd Prozanzki, who have expressed support for the efforts to stop the animal cruelty. Crippen says she intends to keep a dialogue open with the riding club and hopes members of the Cottage Grove community who like the rodeo but do not condone the cruelty to the rabbits will speak up as well.