By Jonathan Kleppinger
January 30, 2013
The Jessamine County FFA chapter is looking to jack up its fundraising efforts with a donkey-basketball event this spring but will have to wait for approval from the school board.
Board members expressed concerns at Monday night’s meeting about safety and insurance, and superintendent Lu Young warned them that groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) vehemently opposed donkey basketball. The board will consider the matter at its Feb. 25 meeting.
Agriculture teacher Mary Jennings said Tuesday that the chapter began researching donkey basketball after hearing from several other Kentucky chapters in a summer training who use similar events for fundraising. She said she suspected the event that had been popular decades ago declined in popularity as rural lifestyles faded.
But Jennings said three or four FFA chapters in Kentucky still regularly put on donkey-basketball fundraisers, in which teams of people play a basketball game while riding on donkeys.
FFA students were tasked with researching companies, and they settled on Buckeye Donkey Ball, an Ohio-based operation that has been running since 1934.
The Buckeye Donkey Ball website features a media page with a six-minute CBS video from 2003 purporting the activity does no harm to the animals. Jennings said that video did a good job of showing the donkeys are not mistreated.
“These donkeys are spoiled; they are not mistreated in any way, shape or form,” she said.
The company provides insurance forms and waivers and requires riders to wear helmets and donkeys to be under a height limit. Jennings said despite the many precautions, she knew there could still be some opposition.
“I educated our students that they need to be prepared to hear the word ‘no,’ because unfortunately, there is controversy around this because we are using animals,” she said. “And there’s always going to be activists that are concerned with their treatment.”
Young told board members during Monday night’s work session that the administration had “significant concerns” about liability and community reaction but that she wanted to test the waters with the board.
Vice chairperson Amy Day said she had been in contact with an FFA officer and that she was happy to support donkey basketball if all the paperwork was in order.
“I think it’d be a fun event; I think it’s something different,” she said.
Other board members were more skeptical, but Young said Day’s support was enough to put the item on the agenda for the Feb. 25 monthly meeting. A specific gymnasium has not been named yet, but Jennings said the event would likely be scheduled for April or May if it received board approval.
Jennings suggested that rather than being a chance to harp on mistreatment of animals, the donkey-basketball event could serve to teach how entertainment animals could be treated humanely.
“We hope it will be a really great event,” she said. “We think it’d be fun, kind of a small-town atmosphere here in Jessamine County and a great way to educate people on animals used in entertainment not having to be a negative thing.”