Revs' 'Cowboy monkey rodeo' still on; protest planned

Christopher Dornblaser

An event scheduled for Sunday's York Revolution game at PeoplesBank Park is causing an uproar — enough so that the corporate sponsor has yanked its name from it and animal rights activists are organizing a protest.

The "Cowboy Monkey Rodeo" will not appear at PeoplesBank Park in York during the 2017 Revolution season.

"Cowboy Monkey Rodeo" during which capuchin monkeys ride dogs that herd sheep, is planned to take place between innings of the afternoon game, and a longer show is scheduled for after the competition, according to the York Revolution website.

Event: Jane Heller, director of the Humane Society of Southern Maryland Inc. and York, said the monkeys used in these traveling exhibitions are tethered to the dogs, which then “race around with the monkey on, pretending to be cowboys.”

According to information provided by the Humane Society of the United States, “the dogs can reach speeds of up 30 mph and abruptly stop, start, turn, lie down and stand up, causing the monkey to be violently jerked forwards and backwards and slide wildly from side to side.

"... Subjected to high, repetitive head accelerations — similar to what rodeo participants or passengers involved in motor vehicle accidents experience — the monkeys are especially vulnerable to neck injuries, such as whiplash. The dog may also inadvertently run the monkey into objects, such as walls, fences and poles," the society states.

The monkey is "just a piece of equipment they use to entertain," Heller said, adding she was horrified when she found out about the local event. She said she contacted local animal rights activists, as well as the organizations involved in the exhibition.

A demonstration, organized by PETA, has been scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. Sunday near the stadium, according to a Facebook "event" page.

Organizations: Heller said she spoke to Eric Menzer, president and general manager for the York Revolution, who told her the team had done the event twice before and had spoken to a state agency that cleared it.

"He thought it was just fine, no problem," she said.

The corporate sponsor of the event had a different reaction.

The Revs had been advertising the event as "Cowboy Monkey Rodeo sponsored by The Lube Center," so Heller contacted the Maryland-based company. On Friday, The Lube Center backed out as sponsor and asked the team to remove the company's name from material advertising the event.

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"As a company we decided we wanted to be sensitive to the community... and this was the best thing for us to do," said Michelle Rankin, The Lube Center's community outreach manager.

Heller said she also reached out to PeoplesBank, but had not heard back from them.

Revs response: Menzer said Saturday that he had not contacted a specific state agency regarding the event and its organizer, Tim Lepard, but he had seen complaints sent to governmental organizations about the them.

Menzer said the Humane Society fact sheet that is sent around is also sent to governmental organizations.

“To my knowledge, none of those authorities have felt there is sufficient need to investigate (the organizer),” he said.

Menzer said the event is high-profile, saying that Lepard has performed at many big events, such as NFL games.

“There’s nothing he’s hiding from anyone,” Menzer said.

The Revolution has hosted the event twice before, he said, and he received the same letters from people each time.

“If he was really abusing animals, I'm very confident that the appropriate governmental authorities would step in,” Menzer added.

If authorities had deemed that there was animal abuse, then the team would not be holding the exhibition, he said.

The event is still scheduled to happen Sunday, and Menzer said he never thought about cancelling it.

“I don't think that there’s any reason to change presenting something that thousands of people have bought tickets to,” he said.

Picketing: On Saturday, a PETA "action alert" appeared on their website, urging people to send polite comments to Menzer, asking him to cancel Sunday's event.

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— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser