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Video of 'scramble' at Riverdale Rodeo ignites animal-rights concern

Published: June 23, 2013
By Tim Sheehan— The Fresno Bee

A video posted online by an animal rights group is sparking a modest barrage of concern and complaints over a "barnyard scramble" for children at last month's Riverdale Rodeo.

In response to the complaints, and the possibility that a state law prohibiting such events might have been broken, rodeo officials will stop conducting scramble events, a Sheriff's Office spokesman said.

The scramble is an event in which chickens, ducklings, rabbits, piglets and kid goats are set loose in an arena to be chased and captured by children, from toddlers to pre-teens. If a child catches a critter, it's his or hers to keep.

Riverdale Rodeo Association president Darryl Mendes said the scramble has "been a tradition for as long as I can remember, ever since I was a kid."

The 57th annual rodeo was held on the first weekend of May. It's a slice of small-town life — a farm community festival with a parade, a rodeo queen and professional cowboys riding bulls, roping calves and busting broncos. In the town of 3,200 people, the Riverdale Rodeo Association is a booster, providing scholarships for students and money for local programs, including the volunteer fire department.

The barnyard scramble is part of the fun. But an animal-rights activist with a 20-year history of butting heads with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association over the treatment of rodeo livestock found the barnyard scramble particularly troubling.

Steve Hindi, president of Illinois-based SHARKonline.org — the acronym stands for SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness — and another member visited Riverdale with video cameras on May 5.