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Donkey Basketball: Cruelty on the Court

It’s hard to believe that something as absurd as “donkey basketball” still exists in this day and age.

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, loading and unloading them in and out of trailers and hauling them around the country from one event to the next. The lights, noise, and commotion of these events are extremely stressful for the donkeys, who must endure the additional trauma of being kicked, shoved, and shouted at. According to The Donkey Sanctuary in the U.K., an average-size donkey is not able to bear much more than 100 pounds, yet in most games, participants are teenagers or full-grown adults.

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.”

Dangerous for All

Donkeys who are forced into loud, confusing environments can become frightened and may lash out to protect themselves. A participant in a Waterloo, Illinois, donkey basketball game was awarded more than $110,000 for injuries that he sustained in a game, and in another game, a Wisconsin state senator fell off a donkey and broke her leg. A fifth-grade teacher in Florida sued the Diocese of St. Petersburg and the owner of the Dixie Donkey Ball company, claiming that she had suffered injuries after being thrown off a donkey at a fundraiser.

What You Can Do if You Hear About a Donkey Basketball ‘Game’

There are loads of innovative and humane fundraising opportunities, including dodgeball and rubber-duck derby races. No one has to resort to cruelty to cash in. For example, after hearing from students, Fleetwood Area School District in Pennsylvania replaced its annual donkey basketball games with dodgeball. The superintendent informed us that the school raised more money than it had previously raised with donkey basketball and that it had made dodgeball its official annual fundraiser in addition to implementing a district-wide policy banning live-animal fundraisers. In Estes Park, Colorado, the Rotary Club raised more than $120,000 in its rubber-duck derby, and an Illinois charity earns $133,000 on average during a similar annual derby. The following are some steps that you can take to help put donkey basketball out to pasture:

  • If you’re a student at a school that’s hosting donkey basketball, take charge. Students and parents should contact their school district superintendent and ask for a policy banning the use of live animals in fundraisers. You could also start a petition! If your appeal is ignored, contact PETA so that we can help you plan a demonstration.
  • If another local group hosts a “game,” politely voice your objections. Be sure to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and use social media to explain how cruel donkey basketball is.
  • Forward this page to your friends and family members, and encourage them to oppose cruel school fundraisers that exploit animals.