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May 27, 2022

Supervisors delay decision on animal rules

SANTA CRUZ—The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tabled a motion to make changes to the county’s animal welfare rules after organizations that run animal-based events expressed concern about the rules’ effects.

The new rules would, among other things, have prohibited using live animals for entertainment purposes, which includes circuses, rodeos and animal auctions, and events in which animals participate in “performances for the amusement or entertainment of an audience.”

Showing animals for “strictly educational purposes” was permitted under the rules, which may have exempted the livestock exhibits during the Santa Cruz County Fair.

But that language was not comforting to Santa Cruz County Fair Manager Dave Kegebein, who said that the proposed rules were not vetted by the public before being brought for approval to the Supervisors.

“There are a lot of nuances that can be interpreted in a number of ways,” he said. “There is way too much ambiguity.”

It is also unclear how the proposed rules would have affected popular attractions at the County Fair such as the All Alaskan Racing Pigs.

Kegebein said that he was joined in his opposition by local 4-H clubs, in which young people raise livestock for judging and eventual auction, and by people who raise chickens in their backyards.

“That tells you we need more discussion on the issue,” he said.

According to Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter General Manager Melanie Sobel, who crafted the new rules, the changes were intended only to protect animals in events such as rodeos and circuses, where they are in distress and asked to do unnatural things.

Sobel said that she intends to revisit the issue later in the summer, after county officials have hammered out their voluminous budget. 

At that time, Sobel said she plans to contact the entities and organizations that were concerned about the rules to get their input.

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