On 15th February 2023, House Bill 95, the Working Animal Protection Act, in the US state of Wyoming, failed on its third and final reading in the House, despite unanimously passing the committee stage. The bill was brought by state Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody) aiming at shielding rodeo and other animal-related events from the scrutiny and campaigning of animal protection campaigners that could lead to local bans. The bill failed narrowly with 30 votes in favour and 32 against.
The main reason for this failure was the concern about stepping on the toes of local governments, as this bill aimed to prevent local governments to ban any of these cruel spectacles. The act would have barred cities, towns, and counties from implementing any ordinance or policy that “terminates, bans or unduly restricts a person from using a working animal in lawful commerce or an animal enterprise.” In this bill, a working animal meant “a nonhuman animal used primarily for the purpose of performing a specific duty or function in commerce or an animal enterprise including human service, legal hunting, agriculture, ranching, husbandry, transportation, education, competition, tourism, entertainment or exhibition.”
Responding to the comments of some politicians that local governments can’t always be trusted to resist “undue influence” from animal protection organisations, Rep. Zwonitzer said during the debate of the bill in the House of Representatives of Wyoming that “some of our elected officials may say the same about this body.”
Ironically, this bill was initiated by people from outside the state: the Cavalry Group, an Oklahoma-based organization that advocates for the rights of people to exploit animals for entertainment and other purposes. Luckily, their lobbying was insufficient even in the very rodeo state of Wyoming. Had HB 95 been signed into law, Wyoming would have become the third state to put a version of the act on its books, after Arkansas and Oklahoma. In other states, there have been positive steps, such as California’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors agreeing on prohibiting a ranch rodeo event known as “wild cow milking”, where a team tries to get milk from a cow turned loose in an arena.