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Cowpokes aren't welcome in Port Moody. Could petting zoos be next?

Port Moody's ban is "a big win for animals," according to the Vancouver Humane Society.
The Vancouver Humane Society is applauding a recent decision by Port Moody council to ban rodeos from the city. | ANDRE OUELLET/UNSPLASH

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) is celebrating a recent decision by Port Moody council to ban rodeos in the city.

In a statement on its website, the humane society said the ban is "a big win for animals."

Coun. Kyla Knowles introduced the motion for the ban even though, she acknowledged, Port Moody "doesn't exactly have a space to hold rodeo events."

Knowles said prohibiting such events in the city serves as a symbolic gesture that disavows the pain and suffering rodeo’s four-legged participants can experience as they're bucked, roped or wrestled to the ground.

"Animals in rodeos are often hurt," she said, adding council received 13 letters requesting the events be banned.

"We're very grateful for the advocacy of local residents and pleased to see the City of Port Moody taking the initiative to proactively ban inhumane rodeo events," said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett in a news release.

"We hope other communities will follow Port Moody’s lead by moving away from inhumane rodeo events."

Vancouver and North Vancouver are the only other cities in B.C. that have banned rodeos. Vancouver's ban was enacted in 2006, nine years after the last such event was held in the city.

A poll conducted by Research Co. in 2022 showed 36 per cent of British Columbians are "strongly opposed" to using animals in rodeos while 28 per cent are "moderately opposed."

During the Victoria Day weekend, a small group of animal welfare activists with signs and placards gathered outside the gates of the Cloverdale Rodeo in Surrey to protest its treatment of animals. The three-day event was making its return after three years off because of the COVID-19 pandemic and construction work at the fairgrounds.

In 2007, the Cloverdale Rodeo Association removed four events — calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling and wild-cow milking — in response to concerns about the treatment of animals.

Meanwhile, Port Moody staff will look at the implications of possibly extending the city’s rodeo ban to also include mobile petting zoos on city property.

Knowles said she was a little "nonplussed" to see an exhibit at the city’s recent Fingerling Festival where kids were allowed to handle exotic animals like lizards and snakes.

She said "animals are not for entertainment. This is not the way society is going for humane practises with animals."

Knowles said such zoos often transport animals in small, confining cages and enclosures and when the animals get older or bigger, "they are disposed of."

But Coun. Diana Dilworth said the city must be careful how far such a ban goes as "a lot of time, kids have their first exposure to animals at petting zoos" or when animals are brought in to schools as part of an educational program.

In 2019, former Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov suggested a weekend petting zoo might be an appropriate use of the city’s property at the corner of Ioco Road and Murray Street, where the old firehall was located.

He said activating the barren corner with a petting zoo, community garden or events in partnerships with local businesses or environmental groups would "inspire a sense of pride and ownership of this site."

In 1990, a team of horses giving rides to children during Golden Spike Days events at the Port Moody recreation complex bolted into a crowd of spectators, injuring four of them.

A report in the Tri-City News at the time said it wasn't known what spooked the animals but when a handler jumped onto their passenger cart to try to calm them, they plunged into onlookers. The handler suffered a sprained ankle and three other people sustained minor injuries.

SOUND OFF: Do you agree with Port Moody’s ban of rodeos? Do you think petting zoos should also be prohibited? Send us a Letter to the Editor. Be sure to include your full name and city of residence.