packed Tuesday with equestrians, sportsmen, animal rights supporters,
and others intent on voicing their support or opposition to the
moratorium on Clark County’s ordinance against horse roping — a
controversial leg-tying practice used in some rodeo-style exhibitions
and competitions — and intentional horse tripping.
The moratorium had been proposed by County Commissioner Chris
Giunchigliani in order to clear the way for a permit to be issued to
the Charros Federation USA, which uses the controversial horse roping
technique in its equestrian sports shows and needs clearance to take
part in the World Series of Charreria at South Point Hotel Casino in
late September. Without the permit, the planned roping events could
not lawfully be conducted.
Commissioner Steve Sisolak voted no to the issuance of a permit to
hold the event because, in his observation, in a 20-year history,
there has never been a moratorium on an existing law to allow an
illegal event to be permitted.
Although the commissioners asked Alex Galindo, president of the
Mexican Federation of Charreria if his organization would hold its
event if three of the horse roping events were not allowed. Galindo
said they “would not.” For the Charros, it is all nine events or
nothing. The roping competition is part of a long, culturally rich
history of the traditional Mexican rodeo.
Giunchigliani argued that a temporary permit would allow commissioners
to “test” the waters of the rodeo to see if it really is a cruel sport
and if animals would be injured, despite testimony by licensed
veterinarians that injury was certain.
Speakers representing the Latino community came to comment either for
or against horse tripping and roping.
At the heart of the issue is animal welfare. In part, it is roping
versus intentional tripping.
Clark County’s current law does not allow the roping of horses’ legs
in any fashion. The Charros Federation’s position is that they are
skillfully roping the legs of a running horse and it is not their
intent to trip horses. The passion of the Charros members was evident.
Animal rights supporters have long expressed their dismay that it
permissible to cripple an animal for sport whether done intentionally
Despite testimony by licensed veterinarians with decades of
experience, trainers of, collectively, thousands of horses, and the
emotionally charged videos of roped horses suffering serious falls,
commissioners did not vote unanimously against the practice.
The commission voted no to the moratorium, but that does not satisfy
many animal rights advocates and others who wanted a unanimous or
stronger symbolic stand by commissioners against the practice. The
vote was split 3:3.
There are still unresolved matters about the future of the ordinance
especially pertaining to unintentional tripping of horses. The
commissioners say they will form a work committee to review and
possibly propose modifications to the existing ordinance banning horse
Veterinarian Dr. Roechen Heers spoke to the commissioners regarding
the physical dangers of roping the legs of a galloping horse. After
her comments, Commissioner Tom Collins requested permission to
The questions to Heers were more seemingly more like editorial
comments about the dispensing of pain medications to horses to allow
them to perform under a saddle more comfortably. Collins equated the
act of dispensing pain medications equal to the risks of roping the
legs of a galloping horse.
Heers handled Collins queries directly but eventually requested that
the questions be brought in line with the horse roping and tripping
matter at hand or that he be excused from the podium.
Collins also stated that there have been “no citations” for horse
roping or tripping on record in Clark County. Speakers from the
community testified that they had in fact called in such complaints to
Clark County Animal Control in past years but no citations were
issued. One speaker, Teri Hendrickson, also stated that two animals
died on a certain property as a result of their injuries from the
Later in the proceedings, Collins presented devices to show the
meeting participants what is used to drive livestock, further
emphasizing the lack of harm to animals, in his opinion, through the
use of what he called “harmless instruments” that did not inflict pain
on the “very thick hides” of livestock.
Some horse trainers heartily disagree with Collins’ assessment of the
degree of sensitivity of a horse’s skin.
There was emotional testimony by members of the Latino community who
seek to preserve their traditions and heritage with regard to horse
tripping and roping. For the most part, the public speakers were
respectful and polite in the expression of their differing opinions on
this contentious issue.
Dr. Gerald Huff has been a huge advocate for the welfare of the horse
during a series of discussions at commission board meetings on this
matter going back several months, and he spoke again Tuesday against
allowing a permit to rope the legs of horses.
Huff, a practicing veterinarian for more than 30 years, recently
appeared on local Channel 8 News’ “Ralston Reports” and stated his
professional recommendation not to allow any changes to the current
ordinance which is considered the strongest ordinance in this state. =