Representatives of the Langley Riders Society came to Township council on Monday, June 13 to push back against animal rights groups asking that the event not be held.
John Scotton, a director of the society for 45 years, said the Langley Riders have held 55 Little Britches Rodeos as well as high school rodeos and B.C. Rodeo Association sanctioned events over the years.
“To my knowledge, over all these years, we have not had one animal cruelty issue presented to us,” Scotton said.
The new rodeo event is planned for the Labour Day long weekend in September, and is intended to have bareback, saddle bronc, and bull riding, and barrel racing. There will be no roping events.
“As a society, we’re very strict concerning our safety,” he said.
The animals used at the planned rodeo will be “professional animals,” Scotton said.
“This stock is worth thousands of dollars,” he said. “As such, it’d be morally and financially very foolish to mistreat these fine creatures.”
Scotton and James Delorme, a former chief of the Klahoose First Nation, were at the council to speak after both the Humane Society and the B.C. SPCA spoke out against hosting the rodeo, saying they cause animals to be in distress.
Delorme, whose father rode in rodeos, said there will be Indigenous involvement with this event through the Langley riders.
He invited the SPCA to come to their events.
“Of course we’re concerned about the animals,” he said.
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The barrel racers will bring their own animals, but the other horses and bulls will be provided by the rodeo.
Emily Pickett of the Vancouver Humane Society also spoke at the council meeting.
“The VHS opposes inhumane rodeo events that subject animals to fear, discomfort, pain, and stress to make them perform for public entertainment,” Pickett said.
The SPCA has also spoken out against the planned rodeo.
Township councillors had questions for Scotton about the scale of the rodeo, with Councillor Kim Richter asking if it was intended as a replacement for the Cloverdale Rodeo, which has not been held for three years due to COVID-19.
“Hopefully, eventually, but to start with, no,” said Scotton.
The plan is to expand bleachers on the rodeo site in Brookswood with the help of the Thunderbird Show Park, and there is ample parking thanks to agreements with nearby landowners, he said.
Delorme said in addition to Indigenous participants in the rodeo events, there will also be cultural events, food, and Indigenous craft vendors on the site during the event.
At the end of the meeting, Richter asked that Township staff create a report on regulating the size and scope of the event, as well as eliminating any activities that cause cruelty to animals.
Mayor Jack Froese noted that there may be jurisdictional issues, and staff may have to determine exactly what they can regulate.
“I’m very concerned about the scope of this particular event,” Richter said. “I’m not convinced that that particular site can handle it.”
“I don’t see how they can possibly have enough parking on the site,” said Coun. Petrina Arnason.
Coun. Bob Long said he trusted the Langley Riders Society to put on the event. “I don’t think that council needs to get involved.”
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh asked if there were standards for the number of parking spots and washrooms for the size of the crowd expected.
Special events permits are required for larger events, said Township manager Mark Bakken, but the cruelty to animals issues are under the jurisdiction of the BC SPCA. Council could notify the SPCA of the event, he said.
The zoning for the site allows these types of events, and doesn’t limit the size of events, Bakken said. The council could decided to “downzone” the site, but that process requires a bylaw and a public hearing.
Richter’s motion to get a staff report was carried in a five-to-three vote.
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