FRIDLEY, Minn. (WCCO) – Animal rights groups protested a donkey basketball game in Fridley Tuesday night, saying the practice of riding donkeys while playing basketball is inhumane and cruel.
Parent Jim Felton came up with the idea of bringing donkey basketball to Fridley as part of a fundraiser for the senior class of 2011′s all night party. He remembered donkey basketball from his high school days, and said it stood out from usual fundraisers.
“Everything you do has to raise funds in some way whether it is bake sales, cookie sales, art sales and we were looking for something a little bit new,” said Felton.
According to Felton, the committee that brought the donkey basketball game to the high school gym is not affiliated with the school district.
He also realized bringing donkey basketball would also bring the risk of protestors, who believe the practice is harmful.
As people filed into the game, protestors held signs and passed out literature. Dallas Rising, of the Animal Rights Coalition, called the treatment of the donkeys a serious concern.
“This business covers the whole Midwest, and donkeys are deprived of food and water before the game so that they don’t have accidents on the court, which is unsightly for onlookers,” said Rising.
Rising also says the weight of people can be harmful to the donkeys, which are often kicked and whipped during the games.
CJ Cordell owns the donkeys and runs Dairyland Donkey Ball from his Chippewa Falls, Wis. farm, which he says is a third-generation family business. He says his animals are well-fed. When it comes to riders, he implements a weight limit of 225 pounds.
“We don’t think it’s inhumane, otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. Our donkeys are very well cared for. You can see many are quite plump for donkeys,” said Cordell, who says the audiences keep him honest.
Cordell adds that anyone who accidently hits a donkey will have to get off the donkey and kiss it during the game.
Felton said he examined the practice closely.
“We feel good the animals are not being mistreated during the game and outside events being treated very well,” said Felton.
Still, Dallas Rising says the Animal Rights Coalition has received more than 500 e-mails from concerned citizens, and says while her organization unsuccessfully tried to stop this game, they hope they’ve created awareness.
“In the future, we hope Fridley will think twice before doing this again,” said Rising.
PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) calls it cruelty on the court, saying it sends kids the message it is okay to abuse animals. It encourages people to protest the use of live animals during fundraisers.