by RILEY SNYDER
Nevada could join the ranks of eleven other states, including California, Florida and New Mexico if a Senate bill that bans the controversial practice of horse tripping is passed by the Legislature.
Horse tripping is a sporting event in which the hind or front legs of a galloping horse are roped, causing the animal to fall to the ground.
Senate Bill 72, which was presented before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources Tuesday afternoon, was initially positioned to also outlaw steer tailing events and the use of a cattle rod on the face of an animal. Las Vegas Senator Mark Manendo said that these components of the bill were dropped in order to compromise with the bill’s opponents, but many strong opinions and beliefs were discussed during the three-hour hearing.
Supporters of the bill stated that their main intention was to avoid cases of animal cruelty, but opponents of the bill, including the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus, claimed the bill could prevent or inhibit the ability of Hispanics to host charreadas, which are traditional Mexican rodeo-type events.
Supporters of the bill, including lobbyist Beverlee McGrath, were keen to show the committee several pictures and videos of horses hurt by being tripped.
“This is unjustifiable torture,” she said as she showed members of the committee pictures of injured horses. “This is cruelty.”
According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, a similar bill was sponsored by Manendo last session, but was dropped when legislators couldn’t find evidence of horse tripping. Though a video released late in the session showing a horse being tripped in Winnemucca changed the mind of several legislators, it was still too late to take a vote on the bill.
Though several cities and counties, including Henderson, North Las Vegas and Nye County have passed ordinances banning horse tripping, area representatives said it would be simpler to have blanket, state-wide legislation. Former Washoe County Regional Animal Services head, Mitch Schneider, said that Washoe County should enact an ordinance regarding horse tripping next year.
However, opponents of the bill said the scant evidence provided proved little, and that the cultural value of the charreadas was not worth compromising. Oscar Peralta, a spokesperson for the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus, said the lack of evidence meant the bill was more of a cultural issue.
“We will not use culture as a defense if there is cruelty, but we will use culture if there is no evidence of cruelty,” Peralta said.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores also testified against the bill, and tweeted several messages against it.
“Quite unfortunate that some judge practices they clearly know very little (about),” she said over twitter. “#SB72 won’t address what is already illegal- animal abuse.”
The lack of documented horse tripping cases does not mean that it doesn’t happen, supporters said. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani testified in favor of the bill, saying that a lack of evidence doesn’t correlate to something not happening.
“We banned cock fighting, but I know it’s still going on in my district. We banned dog fighting, but I know it’s still going on in my district,” Giunchigliani said.
The Reno Rodeo is officially neutral on the issue, spokesman Steve Schroeder said, as the rodeo has not hosted a horse-tripping event in many years. Schroeder said he believes the issue deals mainly with charreadas and Hispanic culture, which are usually well regulated in Nevada, he said.