Dean of U.S. humane work Warren Cox bucked rodeo before there was an “animal rights movement”
The ASPCA, HSUS, PETA et al ignore the Omak Suicide Race. Why?! asked Showing Animals Respect & Kindness [SHARK] founder Steve’ Hindi in an August 11, 2021 ANIMALS 24-7 guest column.
Hindi’s question reminded Warren Cox, the dean of U.S. humane work and a reformer at every stop, of his many telling conflicts with the rodeo industry decades ago.
Those conflicts foreshadowed the near silence and invisibility of humane organizations in response to rodeo animal abuse today––even when those abuses are as egregious as at Omak, or at the Oakley Pioneer Days Rodeo, where mobs have fired Roman candles at cattle during a “wild cow race” at least since 2011, according to PETA.
After the Boise TV news station KTVB broadcast video of the debacle on July 16, 2021, and after SHARK posted the video to https://youtu.be/43F1mLEBe24, PETA on August 2, 2021 wrote to Cassia County Prosecutor McCord Larsen and Cassia County Sheriff George Warrell, asking that the participants in the Roman candle shooting be prosecuted.
One might expect every other U.S. humane organization of either national or relevant regional scope to do likewise.
But if PETA knew that this was going on in 2011, ten years earlier, where was PETA meanwhile?
Cox now lives quietly with wife Jody and dog Emma Rose in Frisco, Texas, after 60 years in the animal care and control field.
During that time Cox headed 22 different organizations, frequently departing after pushing hard for changes, including opposition to rodeo, that boards of directors were unwilling to risk making.
At least three times people Cox hired and trained went on to lead those same organizations for more than 20 years––but those people, while continuing to implement those reforms Cox had managed to introduce, did not challenge community institutions and elected officials head-on, as Cox did.
“You don’t drive a mule. You hold the reins.”
Just out of high school, Cox in 1952 took a job as a dogcatcher in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I had a pickup truck with a cage on it,” Cox told ANIMALS 24-7. “It was primitive, but looking back I’d have to say we were progressive. We housed dogs in social groups. It was later that the idea came in that you shouldn’t let even friendly dogs mingle.”
Drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Cox––having handled mules in Nebraska––was made a mule driver in the 35th Quartermasters Corps.
“You don’t drive a mule. You let the mule drive, and you hold the reins. If you’re gentle with him, he’ll go where you want. Usually,” Cox taught fellow muleteers, most of them older but much less experienced.
Introduced televised adoption promotion
Following military duty, Cox took a position at the Animal Humane Society of Hennepin County, Minnesota, now the Humane Society of Golden Valley. In 1958 his boss recommended him to head the animal control department in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“It was an old, old facility,” Cox remembered. “I asked for soap, water, and paint.”
There was a new television station in town. Cox soon became the first person known to have used TV to promote pet licensing and adoptions, “live in the studio with the dogs and cats,” he remembers.
Cox went on to head the animal control department in Elkhart, Indiana; the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, in Des Moines; and the Animal Rescue League of Marshalltown, Iowa, an organization he helped to found.
Real vs. fake cowboys
There Cox again did TV, as a regular guest on The Marshall J. Show, which he recalls as “a live cowboy show for kids.”
Cox had no issue against cowboys; in his teens, he had been one.
Cox did, however, have issues with rodeo. Nothing about it was authentic cowboy work as Cox knew it.
At the time, Cox had backing from the national level.
Rodeo had long been resolutely opposed by both the American Humane Association, the only major U.S. national animal advocacy organization from 1877 to 1954, and by the breakaway Humane Society of the U.S.
American Humane Association roped itself in
By 1959, however, rodeo had risen in popularity so rapidly, boosted by the Walt Disney Studios Spin & Marty television series, that the American Humane Association readily accepted an invitation from the Rodeo Cowboys Association, which evolved into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of today, to draft a set of humane rules for rodeo, and to enforce the rules by assigning inspectors to RCA-sanctioned rodeos.
The American Humane Association rules of 1959 are still the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association [PRCA] rules of today, though rarely if ever enforced to the letter.
The American Humane Association meanwhile withdrew from monitoring PRCA rodeos circa 1973.
Hired rodeo investigator
“In 1963 I went to work for the Humane Society of Missouri,” Cox remembered.
The Humane Society of Missouri board considered Cox “too young and radical” for the top job, Cox said, “but I was good enough to keep things running.
“Don Anthony came soon after as the general manager,” Cox continued. “The Humane Society of Missouri had always done cruelty investigations and Don wanted this to continue and expand it to include horse shows and rodeos.
“There was no one on staff capable of doing this,” Cox said, “so I started to look around and somehow became aware of an investigator by the name of John Cason, who was working for Wayside Waifs in Kansas City. John had done some work for Cleveland Amory, some kind of rescue work,” prior to Amory founding the Fund for Animals in 1968.
“Anyway, I was impressed and hired John,” Cox recalled.
“He got involved”
“For the next four years John worked horse shows and rodeos throughout the state of Missouri. John maintained it was not enough to just attend the events. He got involved. At the rodeos he was in the chutes and became acquainted with not only the cowboys, but the stock contractors as well. He was well received and actually appreciated by the stock contractors. He exposed many of the things that were being done to make the animals buck, as well as the abuse by the hot shots,” or battery-operated electric prods, then just coming into widespread use.
“When I went to the Oregon Humane Society in Portland in 1967,” Cox said, “the humane society had investigative powers but there was no one on staff able to do investigations, so I asked John to join me.
“That fall the Humane Society received tickets, as they had in the past, to attend the Pendleton Round Up. I sent John. He was joined by Johnny Marston from the AHA.
“Well, John soon found out he was supposed to sit in the stands as a spectator, as it had always been done. Needless to say, John did not, and went to the chutes as he always had.
“After the rodeo I was called into the office of the humane society president, who told me he had received a complaint from the president of the rodeo, a banker in Pendleton and a state legislator. I was told that I was not ever to do this again.
“Soon after a small rodeo came to Portland. They had poor stock, and as was often the case, cowboys did things to make the horses buck harder, like putting jagged rawhide under the bucking strap.
“Again I was called in to the office of the society president, who said that I had to fire John. I did as I was told, but wrote a letter to the board outlining how things were to be if I was to stay. I was fired, and was on the road again.
“I don’t know if any humane organizations work the horse shows or rodeos anymore,” Cox finished, “but they should. Steve Hindi cannot and should not have to carry all the load himself, but as he pointed out, doing investigations does not make money for the organizations.”
Who is actively monitoring horse shows today on behalf of the horses?
Mostly semi-retired Mississippi attorney Clant M. Seay, who like Hindi has always been involved at his own expense.
Seay on July 28, 2021 recalled that six years to the day earlier he received a call from Tawnee Preisner, founder of Horse Plus Humane Society, asking him to rescue a Tennessee walking horse named Gen’s Ice Glimmer from a public auction in Cookeville, Tennessee.
“Killer buyers were waiting to bid on him and load him on a waiting trailer to head to a slaughter plant in Mexico,” Seay posted to Facebook friends.
Founded Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty
Appalled at the injuries done to Gen’s Ice Glimmer’s legs to make him do the “Big Lick,” as the walking horse goose-step is known, and equally appalled that no one else seemed to be doing anything effective about it, Seay founded the Citizens Campaign Against “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty.
Videotaping “big lick” events and posting documentation of abuses to social media ever since, Seay has accomplished more to shut down the offending shows and discourage attendance in his six years of activism than all of the established national humane organizations combined in at least 60 years––much as Hindi has accomplished more to shut down rodeo than all of the big groups combined in Warren Cox’s 87-year lifetime.
Cox fought bullfighters
Cox, after leaving the Oregon Humane Society, became first executive director of the Humane Society of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where he successfully fought a campaign led by a local state representative to introduce so-called “bloodless bullfighting” to Florida.
Cox then returned to Oregon as founding director of the Humane Society of the Willamette Valley, where he again clashed with rodeo promoters.
In an ensuing stint as director of animal protection for American Humane Association animal protection division, after the AHA quit sanctioning rodeos, Cox helped to found the National Animal Control Association [NACA]. The initial NACA goal was to professionalize animal care and control agencies; the first NACA campaign sought to abolish animal control killing by decompression.
Cox then served as director of animal shelters in Boca Raton, Florida, and Chico, California, where yet again he ran afoul of rodeo promoters.
Challenged the Omak Stampede in 1980
Cox first challenged the Omak Stampede after moving on to the Spokane Humane Society in 1980. Cox returned to Florida to briefly head the Hillsborough County Humane Society in Tampa, but rebounded to Spokane in 1983 to help found SpokAnimal Care.
Cox then headed the Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene and the Colorado Humane Society, before directing the SPCA of Texas for 14 years, beginning in 1989.
Nominally retiring in 2002, Cox soon returned to the field as interim executive director for the North County Humane Society in Atascadero, California; the Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society, in Albany, New York; and the Lakeland SPCA, now the Florida SPCA, where his “interim” stint lasted five years.
These days Cox stays involved as an avid reader of ANIMALS 24-7.