Texas Equine Advocate Speaks Out Against ‘Donkey Basketball’

from Marjorie Farabee, Dir. of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Equine Mgr. of Todd Mission Ranch (TMR Rescue) & founder of Wild Burro Protection League.

“This is a tough position to take, because I support what the intention is of this fundraiser. What I don’t support is condoning abusing animals and laughing about it. They’re teaching children and sending a very wrong message in my opinion,” said Marjorie Farabee.

Farabee is Equine Manager at a donkey rescue called TMR Rescue. She says the sport is too loud and puts too much weight on the animals.

Others agreed, flooding organizers’ voicemails and the event’s Facebook page.

All major donkey organizations agree that donkeys carrying more than 20% of their own body weight on their backs will cause them physical harm over time. Dairyland is not representing their facts correctly. Donkeys are sensitive emotionally and stoic to physical pain. This is a defense response. When donkeys will not move, it is because they are stressed, do not feel safe or have sullied from fear. This sport is not a sport, it is exploitation of an animal that cannot fight back. In other words, the kids observing this with adults laughing and approving are getting the message that it is okay to bully.

6 comments on “Texas Equine Advocate Speaks Out Against ‘Donkey Basketball’

  1. What is really sad about donkey basketball’s use as a fundraiser for worthy causes, is the acceptance of cruelty and animal abuse. These fundraisers normalize bullying and animal abuse. To speak out against an activity that clearly causes harm to a sentient and very emotionally sensitive being, is confusingly juxtaposed with funding a worthy cause. Dairyland Donkeyball, the company that provides the donkeys, has positioned itself well to deflect the well deserve criticisms leveled at them by animal welfare organizations. By helping communities raise funds for causes that matter to them, they gain the support of those who support that cause and give leverage to demonizing those who oppose animal cruelty and bullying.

    When I was sent information that a donkey basketball game had been scheduled just one day following receipt of the information, I set out to try to stop the abuse of the donkeys that would perform that night for Dairyland Donkeyball. The purpose of the fundraiser was to raise funds for Project Graduation which would benefit Splendora High School students. Upon receiving the initial report, I was unaware that Project Graduation is a 501 c 3 non-profit set up specifically to provide high school graduates a safe, alcohol and drug free graduation party complete with prizes, food and entertainment and is separate (on paper) from the school itself.

    Parents from the high school vote on the different fundraising plans during the school year as board members of the non profit, thus removing the school itself from culpability in its choices, including the choice to abuse helpless donkeys as a fundraising tool.

    After speaking with Kevin McDonald who represents Project Graduation, I was given the opportunity to explain why the use of donkeys in this manner was abuse. The public reacts to a comical vision of large people on small donkeys. It never occurs to them that a 350-500 lb donkey might be overloaded with a human weighing more than 20% of the donkey’s own body weight. For a 350 lb donkey the amount they can safely carry on their back is only 70 lbs. In fact, it is common for participants to weigh in excess of 250 lbs. Over time the donkey will have support ligaments break down and experience skeletal damage which results in arthritis. Their mental wellness is also affected leaving the donkey depressed with ears carried sideways and a head that is carried low. All of the donkeys observed at the Splendora donkey basketball event displayed signs of depression that were heartbreaking to see.

    Dairyland Donkeyball is located in WI and boasts owning 65 working donkeys who are sent out to perform in donkey basketball, donkey baseball and donkeyball races all over the country. Thus, to add to the woes of these sweet creatures, they are subjected to long hauls in a trailer which adds to their stress. Dairyland Donkeyball signs contracts with cause driven causes that give them the clear majority of the funds brought in. Thus, they often keep more than 50% of the proceeds depending on the take of the event, leaving the rest for the supported cause.

    This knowledge made it difficult to justify that the participants were merely using the donkeys to fund a worthy cause. As I looked out at the turnout for Splendora’s donkeyball event, I counted no more than 100-150 people. Each was able to opt for the early entry fee savings of $7.00, but using the at the door fee of $10. and applying that amount to 150 people gives me the low number of $1500. total take for the event which leaves the fundraiser with an intake so low that it hardly justifies paying for the cleanup and floor polishing fees the event incurs. They brought in more money auctioning off the baked goods during intermission. So, why are the folks of Splendora endorsing and standing behind this event? They really cannot use the good cause excuse when factoring in that they do not actually make money by booking this animal abusive event. The cold, hard fact is that they just enjoy the entertainment and use it to feature their bake sale.

    For the past five years this high school has booked donkey basketball without coming under scrutiny. Now that they have come under scrutiny, the push back is fierce. I have received threatening messages and attacked personally for bringing the event to the public’s attention. I find it especially problematic that they clearly are desensitized to the suffering of the donkeys who have traveled more than a 1000 miles to perform for them in a noisy gym of people laughing at their suffering. Children are witnessing these events. They are learning from the approval of the adults around them that it is fun to abuse an animal that cannot fight back. The donkeys are pushed, shoved, jumped on, hit by balls, pulled over, and over-burdened by people much too large for them. The noise in the gym causes sensory overload for the very acute hearing of these animals. With complete disregard for the welbeing of these donkeys, Dairyland Donkeyball actively chooses to provide an animal small enough to easily remount when the rider loses their seat and is clearly not large enough to physically handle the weight over time.

    It is time to address this abuse as a whole. It is not okay to take a living animal and knowingly abuse it to a crowd for entertainment. The crowds react with laughter at the outsized people sitting on adorable long ears. The behaviors of donkeys when they are stressed adds to the laughter. Donkeys will stall when stressed and sometimes go completely sully when really frightened. So, as a frightened, stressed out donkey is pulled on at the poll by its rider who has dismounted and tuggged hard from the front, the comical image causes the crowd to roar. What is not seen is the damage to the poll of the donkey. The stall behavior is credited to the myth of a donkey’s stubbornness. This sport continues to reinforcement a false trait which actually describes the behavior of a stressed out donkey that has fears of moving because moving may cause them harm. This is the behavior of an animal that evolved in the harshest conditions on earth. They live in landscapes that place them in situations where running from panic will cause them to lose access to a life necessary resource, or plummet them off a cliff. Standing their ground to assess the danger is part of their inherent self preservation makeup. They do what they do to survive. Their intelligence makes assessing situations like thrusting them into noisy gyms with people screaming at them and throwing balls at them, impossible to react to in a meaningful way. Not having a way out causes them to freeze, because they literally have no where to go to save themselves. Shame on a community that endorses terrorizing an animal so sweet, so humble and so kind as a donkey. Shame on them for using a fundraiser to hide behind to justify the abuse, and shame on Dairyland Donkeyball for making money abusing animals while falsely assuring their clients that the donkeys are treated like family. This really must be stopped.

    The fallout from the use of donkeys as family oriented entertainment clearly leaves an impression on children. We all want to combat bullying and abuse, but how can we when school boards, nursing homes, and other community based causes endorse abusing the clearly defenseless donkey? This is an example being insidiously implanted in the minds of the masses as being acceptable because the events fund good causes. The donkey basketball events themselves normalize cruelty and bullying and should not be tolerated. Any community that wishes to address bullying and cruelty should speak out against using animals inhumanely for any reason. Walk the walk. Stand up to bullying and cruelty. Stop the abuse and stop booking Dairyland Donkeyball to provide entertainment. Those donkeys they call family are actually really abused and misused in a shameful way.
    ~Marjorie Farabee

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent post Miss Abby. Id like to see this forwarded to Congressional Reps for action. We need legislation to stop this abuse since apparently normal animal abuse laws dont cover private companies who abuse animals while providing a fund-raising venue. Donkeyball isnt acceptable behavior to children or any other caring human being.

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  2. Donkeys forced to “play” basketball in fundraisers are frequently kicked and screamed at by inexperienced and unruly riders, who are more invested in putting on a show for spectators than in treating these gentle animals with the care that they deserve. The donkeys are supplied by a handful of companies that rent out these personable animals like carnival equipment. Schools from coast to coast have stopped hosting cruel donkey basketball fundraisers because they want to help nurture kind kids, not bullies. The National Parent Teacher Association Congress states, “Children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their [interactions] with each other.”

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  3. some if not all rescue places should fight this and get custody of these donkeys. They deserve better than this. When I read the school article a month or so back it really made me mad. They exploit these poor animals to harm and think it’s funny and ok. The owners should have been investigated and the donkeys removed for potential injury and harassment. This is not a sport. It is harmful and cruel. This needs to be banned.

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  4. I sent a message to about a half dozen of the school’s principals/asst. principals on this list. Perhaps if we show our distaste for their animal abuse they will not do this next year – plus the more schools that quit this then word will hopefully get out to other schools.
    kmeyer@splendoraisd.org

    Liked by 1 person

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