Canterbury Park Needs to Halt Exotic-Animal Races, Says PETA

For Immediate Release:
July 9, 2021

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Shakopee, Minn.

Today, PETA sent an urgent letter to Canterbury Park CEO and President Randall Sampson, asking him to cancel the camel, ostrich, llama, and zebra races set for July 11 and 18. PETA points out that forcing stressed animals to run is the last thing the park should be doing, considering that the public has gained a new respect for horses and that horse racing is facing mounting criticism. A horse sustained a catastrophic injury on its track just last month.

“Canterbury Park needs to focus on making its racetrack less lethal for horses, not on holding cruel sideshows that exploit even more kinds of animals,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA is calling on the park to stop trying to make a buck off these abused animals’ backs.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Sampson follows.

July 9, 2021

Randall Sampson

CEO and President

Canterbury Park

Dear Mr. Sampson:

I’m writing on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide to ask that you skip the cruel camel, ostrich, llama, and zebra races at Canterbury Park scheduled for July 11 and 18.

Ostrich races are inhumane, as the birds aren’t built to carry the weight of a human on their spine. During these races, abnormal stress is placed on their bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, which can cause painful injuries such as sprains and dislocations as well as joint disease.

For prey animals like ostriches, being straddled is akin to being pounced on by a predator. This causes fear, coupled with the stress of unfamiliar surroundings and crowds of people, prompting a frantic and unpredictable flight response that’s difficult to control. It’s dangerous not just to the birds but also to the riders, the handlers, and the public. When ostriches, who are complex animals with intricate social structures, are used for races, they’re denied opportunities to fulfill their most basic needs.

These races are inhumane to camels, too. In the desert, where these animals belong, they live in social herds and spend their days roaming and foraging. Both Bactrian and dromedary camels have little patience for rough handling, and they can be skittish and erratic.

Animals such as zebras and llamas who are exploited in traveling acts can experience perpetual anxiety, physical discomfort, and frustration, as their instinctual needs are ignored and they’re deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them.

Hedrick’s Exotic Animal Farm, the only provider of zebras for races, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act, including repeat citations for failing to build structurally sound enclosures in order to protect animals from injury and to contain them securely and failing to provide camels with adequate shade. In 2018, a zebra supplied by Hedrick’s escaped from the Chandler Chamber Ostrich Festival in Arizona and was struck and killed by a car. Zebras are prey animals who are highly susceptible to stress. They can be unpredictable, are often ill-tempered, and have a tendency to react skittishly, which can lead to severe physical trauma.

In light of the growing public pushback against cruel animal displays, these novelty races are heading in the wrong direction. Kind people don’t view animals as objects to be mocked or forced into submission. Businesses that fail to recognize that attitudes have changed are likely to lose customers. Concern about the cruelty in horse racing continues to mount, and tawdry, gimmicky sideshows just add to the public’s indignation.

The camel, ostrich, and zebra races are being marketed as “Extreme Day,” but what is more extreme is that while at least 11 horses died at Canterbury Park in 2020, the track has now planned to subject other species to abuse and risks. Will you please prioritize animal welfare by banning camel, ostrich, zebra, and llama races from Canterbury Park? Thank you.


Kathy Guillermo

Senior Vice President

Equine Matters Department

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