The fund-raiser at Skyline High School in Sammamish would have featured a game of hoops with players seated astride actual donkeys. Proceeds from "donkey basketball,"...

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The fund-raiser at Skyline High School in Sammamish would have featured a game of hoops with players seated astride actual donkeys. Proceeds from “donkey basketball,” which had been scheduled for yesterday, would have helped pay for the school’s student-body activities.

But concerns over animal cruelty have stopped it in its tracks.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a nonprofit group based in Virginia, yesterday took much of the credit for the scuttled event by sending out a news release about the cancellation.

But Issaquah School District officials yesterday said the fund-raiser was canceled before PETA ever got involved.

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“It was entirely student-driven,” said Mary Waggoner, spokeswoman for the school district.

According to the district, a Skyline student brought his concerns to the school’s Associated Student Body (ASB) last week, and the student council decided Thursday morning to cancel the event.

By the time PETA weighed in with its concerns, “it had already been canceled,” Waggoner said.

“They protested too late,” she said.

But Jennifer O’Connor, the Animals in Entertainment specialist at PETA, said a few students and parents contacted PETA with their concerns, at which point the animal-rights group began a campaign to stop the event.

Neither the student who complained to Skyline’s ASB nor student officers at the school could be reached yesterday. Other Skyline officials did not return calls for comment.

Donkey basketball, once a fairly common event around the country, has come under fire in recent years, as the general public has become more focused on animal protection, O’Connor said. She described the game as abusive, with donkeys getting dragged, kicked or hit by stray balls.

“Let’s face it, a donkey does not belong on a basketball court,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor praised students for coming forward, saying they risked ridicule from their classmates.

According to PETA, the group’s involvement directly pushed Superintendent Janet Barry to cancel the event.

The group’s news release had the headline: “School Benches Donkey-Basketball Game After PETA Cries Foul.” It went on to say that Barry canceled the game after receiving letters from PETA and local residents.

But Waggoner said it was a school decision and the district had nothing to do with it.

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or csolomon@seattletimes.com