RANCHO MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (KABC) -- Preparations for this year's Rancho Mission Viejo rodeo, which was set to kick off at the end of the month, have come to a unexpected halt.
This year's event at the southern Orange County site is canceled because of a virus affecting horse and cattle across Southern California.
There are no reports of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) specifically at Rancho Mission Viejo, but Lissa Freese, senior vice president of ranch operations, said cancelling is in the best interest of the animals.
"It's the right decision," Freese said. "It's just a hard one. We are heartbroken."
Freese has received word the virus is spreading across the region.
"At that point they had one horse (infected) in each county. By Monday they had 149 horses in those counties," Freese said.
According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, VSV is not fatal but can cause significant economic losses to livestock producers.
Humans who handle affected animals may become infected but it is rare.
The latest data from the department shows suspected cases in LA and Ventura County.
Freese said the decision to cancel is in the best interest of animals that were set to travel to Orange County.
"If we were having to individually temperature-test every single animal coming down the hill to go into the rodeo grounds, can you imagine the time that would take," Freese said. "And to have an individual water bucket for every single animal on the property; it's sort of an impossible task."
For the last 21 years the rodeo has brought in more than 10,000 people to the ranch and raised about $3 million for local charities.
Freese said they plan to bring it back next year bigger and better than ever.
Rancho Mission Viejo said even though the rodeo is canceled this year they still encourage people to come out to the area and take part in other rodeo-related festivities.
They want people to continue donating to the organizations that would benefit from the rodeo.