Our prayers brayers were answered yesterday afternoon when we got word that the Town of Van Horn had announced the cancellation of Saturday’s donkey roping competition.

We’d like to express our gratitude to each and every one of you who played a part in making this happen. Thank you for your phone calls, emails, blog posts, letters and brayers. They worked! ♥

If you have a moment today, please join Patrick in thanking the people of Van Horn, Texas for making the right decision. 

Van Horn City Administrator: Fran Malafronte – franmalafronte@vanhorntexas.org
Van Horn Mayor: Okey D. Lucas – okeyd1@windstream.net
Culberson County, Texas Sheriff: Oscar E. Carrillo – culbersoncounty@msn.com
Coordinator, Van Horn Chamber of Commerce: Patricia Golden – patriciagolden@vanhorntexas.org

Editor, The Van Horn Advocate: Larry Simpson – lsimpson@vanhornadvocate.com


“He can live without man. But man can scarcely do without the labour, the sacrifice, the suffering of the donkey… that has accompanied man since the dawn of time, in all weathers, humbly and patiently serving the most brutal of all animals.”

~P.A. Vieira, ‘Our Brother the Donkey’, in Kinship with Animals, ed. K. Solisti and M. Tobias (San Francisco, CA, 2006), p. 134.

My name is Patrick. I used to be a roping donkey. When I was a roping donkey, I was afraid and unhappy.

My mom and dad rescued me and I’m very happy and safe now. But I’m very worried about the donkeys in Van Horn, Texas, because I know how they feel.

It’s very important you know that Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue; America’s largest donkey rescue, is ready, willing and able to take in all the Van Horn roping donkeys.

Please do the right thing, Van Horn, Texas. Please cancel the donkey roping competition scheduled for this Saturday, June 23 at Van Horn Frontier Days.


If you’re looking for a way to help, please call Jason Owens; the promoter of the event. His phone number is 432-940-9051. He has said he will take all calls. Please explain to him why he needs to cancel the donkey roping competition in this Saturday’s (June 23) Van Horn Rodeo. We hope that if he receives enough phone calls educating him about why this should not happen – he may decide to bow under pressure.

Also, please write to the editor of the local paper in Van Horn, Texas: Larry Simpson, at The Van Horn Advocate: lsimpson@vanhornadvocate.com

We thank you. And Patrick thanks you. ♥

You can imagine my horror. The place that we rescued Patrick from had three new donkeys yesterday morning. Yes, three.

They are small and from what I can tell are young. They still have a spring in their step and don’t yet wear the shackle of a halter that Patrick endured for almost three years.

Two are white and one is grey. They’re beautiful.

We have to stop this. Many of you offered to help, and here’s your opportunity. I have drafted the following letter and would appreciate your comments.


Date 2011

The Honorable Art De La Cruz
Bernalillo County District 2 Commissioner
One Civic Plaza, NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico  87102

Dear Commissioner De La Cruz,

We are writing to express our concern about the practice of using donkeys as a training tool for roping horses. We live in your district and this issue is very important to us. Donkeys are extremely intelligent and sentient animals and are not made to handle being roped – either physically or emotionally.

Roping is necessary for ranching cattle, and team roping as a sport hones the skills needed to treat cattle on the range. However, that doesn’t excuse using donkeys to improve roping skills. There are many mechanical roping dummies that can be used, and can be cheaply built with a little ingenuity. 

The wording of the law as we understand it today falls under the following New Mexico statute:

§ 30-18-11. Unlawful tripping of an equine; exception

A. Unlawful tripping of an equine consists of intentionally using a wire, pole, stick, rope or any other object to cause an equine to lose its balance or fall, for the purpose of sport or entertainment.

B. The provisions of Subsection A of this section do not apply to laying an equine down for medical or identification purposes.

C. As used in this section, “equine” means a horse, pony, mule, donkey or hinny.

D. Whoever commits unlawful tripping of an equine is guilty of a misdemeanor.

E. Whoever commits unlawful tripping of an equine that causes the maiming, crippling or death of the equine is guilty of a fourth degree felony.

L. 1995, Ch. 113, § 1, eff. July 1, 1995.

Donkeys are being used as a training tool for sport roping just down the road from us. When we contacted the New Mexico Attorney General’s Animal Cruelty Taskforce about this, we were told that, “…the roping issue won’t cut it with law enforcement.”

We urge you to please enforce the law against this illegal and inhumane practice and are seeking your help in how to make sure this happens. Thank you for your consideration.




If you prefer, you can also download the letter here: Letter_to_Art_de_la_Cruz.

To send your own version of the letter, please see Clair’s comment here.

Thank you all for being such wonderful blogging friends. ♥

After making many phone calls and sending many emails over the last few days, I’ve come to the difficult conclusion that there’s no easy answer.

In my internet search for information about donkey roping, I came across Forever Home Donkey Rescue in Benson, Arizona. John and Tish Hiestand run a private sanctuary and have quite a few ex-roping donkeys in their care.

Tish was very kind to share some valuable words of wisdom. I think she eloquently summed up the issue:

As you are finding out it “ain’t” easy & there is very little if any resources out there to actually help the donkeys.  The first problem is donkeys, actually all equines are classified as livestock, rather than companion animals like dogs & cats.  Consequently they are under different laws & regulations.  In Arizona as in most western states all that is required for them is food & water.  It actually says nothing about “adequate”.  Or shelter from the sun or bad weather.  In Arizona if the animals are still standing even if they are a rack of bones, if there is a flake of hay on the property or an inch of filthy water in a container they will apprise the owner that they need to do better & leave, not to return unless someone complains again. 

It’s not going to get much better until the law is changed to have equines come under the same laws as dogs & cats.  As you can imagine in ranching states this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, as the ranchers don’t want “do-gooders” coming in & telling them how to do their business…

…Sometimes you have to think “one at a time”, as in this case.  Yes they might go out & get another donkey, but that doesn’t make this one any less worth saving.

Many of you asked how you can help. If you live in an area where donkey roping is practiced, or where you feel equines need more protection, laws will need to be changed. If you’d like to voice your opinion and your desire to have laws changed, contact your local elected officials.

Another group I spoke with was Animal Protection of New Mexico. They are not lawmakers, but they get involved in certain issues – the largest and perhaps most broad issues that affect many people throughout the state.  On a positive note, their sister organization, Animal Protection Voters, has been in Santa Fe for the entire current legislative session trying to amend the State Statute on Animal Cruelty – strengthening the law to make it easier and more clear for law enforcement and DA’s to charge and prosecute people who commit acts of intentional violence toward animals as a fourth degree felony.

This isn’t the answer I wanted either. As a start though, I’m drafting a letter to our local county commissioner, and I’d sure appreciate your help with it. If you’d like to help, just let me know and I’ll email you a draft for editing.


Update from Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Albuquerque Journal 



N.M. Law Must Address, Stop Animal Cruelty



Executive Director, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters


For decades, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection voters have been examining and challenging the root causes of historic and widespread animal cruelty in the state, rolling up our sleeves and offering humane and workable solutions to communities. There are significant hurdles that lie between today’s reality and a brighter future for animals who depend on us for virtually every aspect of their well-being.


To be sure, Animal Protection of New Mexico and Animal Protection Voters work to see strong laws enacted and enforced in New Mexico. Most New Mexicans uphold improved animal protection laws passed in recent years, knowing they protect people and animals. The incontrovertible link between animal cruelty and family violence makes crimes against animals a serious social welfare issue for our time.


Over a decade’s worth of animal cruelty cases have demonstrated that the state’s cruelty statute – not significantly upgraded since 1999 – needs to clearly address conduct often treated as minor crimes today. We aim to ensure there are consequences for egregious and reckless acts against animals: starving a dog to death on the end of a chain; cutting off a puppy’s ears with scissors; letting dogs be eaten alive by maggots; abandoning a mother dog and her puppies to die of starvation; and neglecting and starving a horse to the point where her outgrown hooves force her to stand on gangrenous fetlocks, leading to muscle atrophy, constant pain and her death.


These are willful acts that caused unimaginable suffering and which most people could not stand to witness. All of these cases occurred in New Mexico, and all were considered to be the least serious kind under current state law.


Sen. Richard Martinez’s Senate Bill 348 and Rep. Al Park’s House Bill 319 currently being considered in the 2011 legislative session would further protect animals from cruelty like that described above, conduct that should be earnestly confronted. The bills also would make the heinous crime of bestiality a fourth-degree felony.


But changing the laws is not the entire answer. That’s why Animal Protection of New Mexico provides program services that help people make kind and responsible choices so animals are given relief on the ground, where it matters. For example, Animal Protection of New Mexico partnered to create a statewide Equine Protection Fund that provides temporary feed assistance for horses in families affected by an economic downturn, assistance for the costs of equine euthanasia and is currently planning its first low-cost gelding clinic.


In just six years, Animal Protection of New Mexico has subsidized over $80,000 worth of training to animal control officers across New Mexico, helping them obtain professional training essential to this important job, but which their communities often cannot afford. Further, Animal Protection of New Mexico is working with the N.M. Department of Public Safety to train therapists to effectively treat those who are cruel to animals, as punishment alone is not an effective remedy. Animal Protection of New Mexico’s website (www.apnm.org) has available a comprehensive list of statewide resources for those who are experiencing problems with animal issues, and those without Internet service can call our hot line (1-505-265-2322, x29) for help.


Most New Mexicans do care for their animals and go to lengths to treat them with respect and stewardship. But rare outliers commit unacceptable acts of cruelty, and these cases cannot and should not be ignored.


Animal Protection Voters urges New Mexicans to support SB 348 and HB 319, measures that appeal to our sense of decency and invoke our empathy for animals. The common theme from thousands of calls our hot line receives every year is that compassion and personal responsibility, combined with the will to make positive change happen, make our state a more humane place for everyone.

Because I like to keep our blog focused on happy things, I have agonized for weeks over whether I should write about this or not. I finally decided that I need to.

This is a roping donkey. As is the case in West Texas, donkeys are popular here in some circles as a training tool for roping horses.

On a regular basis, this donkey is tied to the end of the pole shown in this picture. This makes it so that he can only run in a circle when people on horseback chase him and rope his head and his feet.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything that can be done since he is in good body condition and “appears” healthy. The roping issue won’t cut it with law enforcement here. 

There are reasons why many people feel donkeys shouldn’t be used for roping:

  • Donkeys are work and friend animals and aren’t made for roping.
  • They can’t handle it physically or emotionally.
  • As you know, donkeys have long necks. The esophagus of a steer is located higher and deeper in the muscles of their necks, which are shorter than that of a donkey.
  • A donkey’s esophagus can be crushed by a rope because of its placement and exposure.
  • Rope burns. They wrap steers’ horns to protect them, but do they wrap anything on donkeys? (The answer is no.)
  • The stifle joints of a donkey (similar to a person’s knee) can’t handle that type of roping.

And then there are reasons that people train roping horses on donkeys:

  • Donkeys last longer than cattle and they’re cheaper.