In July, cause leader Jo Deibel launched a petition on her Causes.com page demanding for the halt of the Omak Suicide Horse Race — a 70-year-old racing tradition held in Omak, Washington where horses and riders jettison down a dangerously steep slope. In 2004, three horses died in the race and 21 total have perished since the race’s inception. Jo is determined to end the race. “We heard of Omak Suicide Race and we thought it was something we could overcome. We did research, crafted a petition, and then sent it out to our readers.” Last week, Jo delivered her petition of 7,000 signatures — surpassing her original goal of 5,000 — to Omak Suicide Race organizers. We chatted with Jo and talked about her accomplishments to date and what she’s hoping to hear from the organizers.
Jo is the cause leader of Stop Horse Slaughter in the USA, a cause with more than 67,000 members. When she launched the petition on her cause page, support was instantaneous. “There were lots of positive comments, almost 100 comments. [The comments] made me feel good because people said things like ‘this shouldn’t be happening.’” Many of those positive commenters shared the petition with their friends and personal networks and shortly after publication, the petition encroached on its goal.
This wasn’t Jo’s first step toward protecting the well-being of horses. Jo also runs Angel Acres Horse Haven and Rescue, a nonprofit that rescues and adopts horses who are on their way to slaughterhouses. She became passionate about saving horses from cruel and inhumane practices after adopting her first horse almost 10 years ago. “Maddie was the first horse I rescued and I remember a worker at the shelter saying, ‘Good thing you saved her.’” Jo learned that horses left in the shelter were then exported abroad and prepped for slaughterhouses. Jo believes a horse is simply too majestic of a creature to succumb to this fate.
In late July, Jo’s petition surpassed 5,000 signatures and currently has more than 7,000 names. After downloading the signatures, Jo decided the best course of action was to mail the petition (Jo currently lives in Pennsylvania) to Omak, Washington Mayor Cindy Gagne, who has called the Omak Stampede “our community’s signature event.”
The Omak Stampede, which includes the Omak Suicide Horse Race, begins August 9, and Jo wants the organizers to be in touch with her about the campaign soon. “I hope we get some word from them.” You can watch a clip of the race on the petition page.