Donkey Basketball: Animal Abuse, or Harmless Fun for Jackasses?

The Humane Society of the United States is calling foul on a Montgomery County official's donkey basketball fundraiser February 11. For the non-rednecks out there, donkey basketball is just what it sounds like: people playing basketball while riding donkeys. Hilarious, right?

Charlie Riley, the precinct two operations manager, is holding the fundraiser at Magnolia Junior High, with proceeds going toward a senior citizens service group called The Friendship Center.

Katie Jarl, director of the Texas division of the Humane Society of the U.S., says she reached out to Riley and his campaign treasurer, Linda Stuckey, with concerns, but never got a response.

In a letter to Riley, Jarl wrote that "during donkey ball events, participating animals may be subjected to a variety of abuses. Donkeys are often pushed, pulled, kicked and punched by their riders, or are injured by misthrown balls or by falls on slippery surfaces. Between exhibitions, the donkeys have little opportunity to lead a 'normal' life. They spend much of their lives in crowded trailers while being shipped around the country. They are usually deprived of food and water during transport. Donkeys may injure each other in the cramped trailer, and frequent trailering increases their susceptibility to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia."

As was Jarl's experience, we never got a response from Riley. It took multiple tries, but eventually Stuckey got us a statement through another campaign worker, Kristin Christ, who told us in an e-mail: "As those in this community know, Charlie Riley is an avid animal lover and equine enthusiast. He would never condone any actions that are abusive to animals. Charlie and his campaign team have read every complaint from animal activists groups and researched every issue extensively. They have found the claims unfounded and without merit." C.J. Cordell, who owns the Wisconsin-based company providing the donkeys, says that animal welfare groups are full of donkey shit: "It's the same old garbage they've been spewing for decades...They used to claim that we shoved forks in their rear ends to keep them from pooping during the shows, but people didn't really go for that one, so they finally dropped it off their list."

Cordell, who stresses his Aggie credentials, says that his donkeys are thoroughly fed and watered so they stay in good physical condition -- otherwise they wouldn't be able to play. He says his trailer has a hay-maker, and his animals have 24-7 access to food and water.

He adds that no measures are taken to prevent or minimize the donkeys dropping deuces on the floor, because that's actually part of the fun. (Adding to the hilarity, he says, "celebrities" such as local officials often act as janitors who have to mop up the mess.)

When asked why a group like the HSUS would claim the animals suffer if they really don't, Cordell told us, "They're just...doing what they gotta do to make a profit." (He couldn't specifically tell us how they profit, though.)

Somehow, we assume donkeys would rather not be mounted by big sweaty dudes and made to run up and down a stuffy gym floor -- but Cordell says it's only for 40 minutes, and the rest of the time, they're in donkey heaven. To us, though, the idea of watching such dickery seems like human hell.

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