SPLENDORA, Texas -- Have you ever heard of donkey basketball?
It’s exactly how it sounds: basketball played on the backs of donkeys.
The game has been a tradition in Splendora for the last several years.
“It’s a fun event. It’s actually quite comical when the donkeys decide they don’t want to move. The players, there’s just nothing they can do,” said Kevin McDonald, a parent and board member of Project Graduation for the class of 2017.
McDonald says the annual fundraiser benefits Project Graduation, which gives high school seniors a safe place to go on graduation night.
This year, the event was held in the Splendora Junior High School gym.
However, for some, it isn’t all fun and games.
“This is a tough position to take, because I support what the intention is of this fundraiser. What I don’t support is condoning abusing animals and laughing about it. They’re teaching children and sending a very wrong message in my opinion,” said Marjorie Farabee.
Farabee is Equine Manager at a donkey rescue called TMR Rescue. She says the sport is too loud and puts too much weight on the animals.
Others agreed, flooding organizers’ voicemails and the event’s Facebook page.
“There’s no way I would ever condone anything to injure an animal. Some of the phone calls I received yesterday showed a lot more violence than I would ever show towards an animal,” McDonald said. “I understand and can sympathize with the complaints we received, but at the same time, I don’t necessarily agree with their opinion.”
The owners of the donkeys, Dairyland Donkeyball, also refuted claims of abuse in a statement on their website.
“Our animals are our livelihood and part of our family. Our donkeys are fed and watered before we are, bedded down and comfortable before we are; their needs are put before our own at all times. My husband and I both have degrees in agriculture from Texas A&M University. I grew up with donkeys and horses and he with dairy cattle. We currently own a herd of 65 donkeys and care for them at home or on the road every day, we are donkey experts. We care for our donkeys naturally with no-chemical or organic hay and straw and the best veterinary care. Our veterinarians have even ridden our donkeys in donkey basketball games!” wrote Jessica Cordell, Co-Owner, Dairyland Donkey Ball, LLC.
The annual event is organized by parents of each graduating class, so the class of 2018 will have to decide if the tradition will live on.