The Great Bull Run receives permits from Dept. of Ag

CONYERS — The Great Bull Run has obtained the proper permits from the state Department of Agriculture, clearing the way for Saturday’s event at the Georgia International Horse Park.

“They have all their permits as of (Tuesday) and the event can go on as scheduled,” said Mary Kathryn Yearta, communications director for the Department of Agriculture, “They will have to work with the city of Conyers for what they require, but as far as what (the organizer) needs with us, he is all set.”

The status of The Great Bull Run was in question last week when it came to light that the event organizer, Rob Dickens, had not obtained the proper permits as of Friday from the Department of Agriculture.

On Thursday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and State Veterinarian Robert Cobb petitioning the Department of Agriculture to “take immediate action to protect public health and animal welfare by ordering the Great Bull Run Company to cancel its scheduled exhibition.”

Yearta explained that any show that involves livestock must obtain a show exhibition permit. Included in this permitting process is that organizers must show that they meet all animal health rules regarding those animals that are brought into Georgia.

She said the Department of Agriculture tries its best to work with all organizers of such events, but they ask that they obtain the permit 21 days in advance of the event.

If a permit is not submitted and approved by the date of the event, Yearta said state inspectors will be present to make sure the event is not held.

Dickens, who is the chief operating officer with The Great Bull Run LLC, said it was a misunderstanding and that he had already obtained the proper clearance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He said he spoke with State Veterinarian Dr. Cobb Friday afternoon and he would submit the required paperwork that day.

The Great Bull Run is scheduled to take place Saturday where participants will have the opportunity to experience the thrill of the traditional running with the bulls as in Spain, without the same level of danger, according to organizers. The Great Bull Run will take place along a 1/4-mile course constructed of barricades in the Grand Prix Stadium.

A combination of 36 bulls and steers will be brought to the event and the bulls and steers will run in shifts. Each bull or steer is only allowed to run the course twice. Dickens has coordinated large-scale events for several years, like the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle race held at the horse park in August.

In an earlier interview, he said the Great Bull Run is the first time he has organized an event involving animals, so he has partnered with a rodeo company with more than 60 years of bull-handling experience.

According to David Spann, chief operating officer with the city of Conyers, about 2,300 people have pre-registered for the event.