By Robert Souza
Castro Valley Forum
The Hayward Area Recreation District Monday night imposed a $2,500 fine on the company that used electric prods on livestock at this year’s Rowell Ranch Rodeo.
After an hour and a half of public testimony from 21 speakers, HARD directors opted for the fine instead of a staff-recommended one-year ban on Flying U, the Marysville company that supplies livestock to the rodeo.
It was a Flying U employee who was videotaped using the prod to jump-start bucking broncos from the chutes during this spring’s rodeo.
“I’ve been putting on rodeos for 52 years and I grew up with Maggie and Harry Rowell,” explained Flying U owner Cotton Rosser just moments after he shocked himself repeatedly with one of the handheld devices.
“These things are harmless and we did not know about your rules and are very sorry to cause so much trouble.”
To the surprise of the board, Alameda County Sheriffs Sgt. Scott Dudek explained his department had conducted an investigation into the prodding and had identified the person in the prodding video.
“We felt it was a criminal matter that could be investigated and we are moving forward with it,” Dudek said.
Use of the prods is allowed by Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which prompted many speakers to urge HARD to revise its regulation.
Written in 1988, the regulation prohibits the mistreatment of animals on rodeo grounds and specifically bans the use of prodding or electric devices on animals during rodeo events.
“They knew exactly what they were doing was wrong and hid the prods as it was being done,” said Mike Kobliska, an animalrights investigator who shot the video from the stands. “I hope you won’t be bullied by people who will break your rules and later come back asking for forgiveness.”
“The issue to me that is crystal clear has nothing to do with the rodeo, but has everything to do with HARD’s rules,” insisted Board Member Dick Sheridan who made the motion for the $2,500 fine. “No means no and ignorance of HARD’s rules is no excuse.”
Sheridan’s motion directs $2,000 of the fine to go to Hayward’s Sulphur Creek animal rehabilitation and care area and the rest to HARD for administrative fees.