CASTRO VALLEY -- An animal-rights activist is asking the park district to prohibit the wild-cow milking event at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo because an animal died during this year's competition.
"A panicked cow jumped over a fence that's almost 6 feet tall, landed on her head and broke her neck; she had to be euthanized," said Eric Mills of Action for Animals in Oakland. "You ended up with a dead cow and an orphan calf for no good reason. It never should have happened in the first place. Why not do just the sanctioned events?"
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctions saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, team roping, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, barrel racing and all-around cowboys.
Wild-cow milking is a timed event during which a two-person team ropes and milks a cow. The cows often give the people a beating, Mills said.
"People get hurt, animals get hurt. What's the good of that?" he asked.
The Rowell Ranch Rodeo has been a popular event for 95 years and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame this year. It was started by rancher and businessman Harry Rowell, and is now run by a nonprofit group. The rodeo and related events raise money for charities and local groups.
The rodeo grounds are owned by the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, which rents them out. Mills raised his concerns about the rodeo at the park district board's June 9 meeting, and directors referred it to its rodeo committee. The committee met June 17, but no representatives from the rodeo association attended, said the district's general manager. The committee will meet again to hear from the rodeo association before making any recommendations to the district board, John Gouveia said.
In a written response, a Rowell Ranch Rodeo official said, "We at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo care a great deal about the health, safety and security of the livestock who participate in our sport."
The rodeo meets or exceeds standards set by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Russ Fields said.
"During the second performance of the rodeo there was an unfortunate incident in the cow milking event. Rowell Ranch Rodeo has taken measures to prevent this from happening again," Fields said.
The cow was injured May 17, but the incident was not reported by the attending veterinarian to the state Veterinary Medical Board within 48 hours as required by law, Mills said. A representative for the state confirmed that no reports have been filed for the Rowell Ranch Rodeo.
Mills said he would like to see all rodeos banned but knows that won't happen. He helped draft the park district's rodeo animal welfare policy in 1986, and acknowledged that the agency has high rodeo safety standards.
"It has one of the least inhumane rodeos in the country, but there's still room for improvement," he said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.