A fundraiser scheduled for late April in Barre, Vermont, has sparked a passionate debate about the use of animals in a certain type of entertainment.
A game of “donkey basketball” is scheduled for the Barre Civic Center Auditorium April 28, as part of a series of events hosted by a non-profit to raise visibility for its work during sexual assault awareness month.
The zany activity sees teams of community leaders and recognizable businesspeople leading or riding donkeys, then shooting hoops. All the while, players must contend with the animals’ unpredictability.
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The event will raise money for OUR House of Central Vermont, which works with survivors of sexual and physical violence in Washington County to start them down their paths toward healing.
“They're mistreated,” opponent of the event Cindy Cross-Greenia said of the animals involved in donkey basketball. “And what are we teaching the children? That it's okay to abuse animals? That it's ok to laugh at them?”
“I just don't believe it to be true,” countered OUR House’s director, Rebecca Duranleau. “I'm 100 percent confident in this event being fun, family-friendly, perfectly safe for children to come and see.”
Cross-Greenia is now circulating an online petition asking the non-profit to reconsider its donkey basketball game.
She said she worries the donkeys will get yanked around and forced to carry people too heavy for them.
“This is not the way to have fun; this is not the way to do a fundraiser,” Cross-Greenia said. “It's not funny. It is mistreatment. It's an animal—it’s a living thing. It feels pain. It's uncomfortable.”
Duranleau is steadfast in her belief that donkey basketball is good, clean family fun.
“The event is absolutely not going to be canceled,” she said. “To hold an event that would be abuse would be a violation of our moral code and it's just not something we are doing or are planning on doing at any time in the future.”
John Sisters, the owner of Green Mountain Donkeyball in Danby, Vermont, insisted his donkeys are well cared for, getting impeccable grooming, bedding in their stalls, and plenty of food.
Sisters told necn in a phone interview that his donkeys only work two dozen or fewer days per year at community events in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and never in snowy conditions that would require treacherous trips on slick roads.
The Green Mountain Donkeyball owner also said he remains on-site for each and every game, ensuring strict rules are followed to protect the safety of the donkeys. Those rules, Sisters said, include weight limits on which players can ride certain donkeys.
Cindy Cross-Grenia promised to keep spreading the word about the petition and pushing for an end to this kind of event.
OUR House, meanwhile, said it has many enthusiastic supporters who just can’t wait to watch donkey basketball April 28.