It has been almost a decade since anyone from the rodeo world has been willing to debate SHARK. The last time was when rodeo veterinarian and PRCA mouthpiece Doug Corey tried to face SHARK president Steve Hindi on live Las Vegas television during the PRCA’s 1997 National Final Rodeo. Steve quietly and professionally took Corey apart to the point the man was close to tears after the confrontation.
Unfortunately, Steve did too good of a job, and the rodeo people have been running ever since. Now the Rodeo Mafia hides behind reporters that will write articles that are one-sided to the point of being utterly incredible. In Cara Eastwood’s story, however, there are so many comments from so many rodeo people, SHARK has an opportunity to “debate once again.” So let’s get to it!
WTE investigation into questionable use of 5,000-volt prod shows gaps in enforcement of PRCA regulations
August 6, 2006
By Cara Eastwood
Published in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
SHARK's comments are in italics
CHEYENNE - During the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo on July 28, the mood in the chutes during the bareback riding was the normal, fast-paced tension. Cowboys bounced up and down, warming up their legs. Some squatted, hats in hand, saying short prayers before mounting their horses.
Yes, prayers. Lord knows, rodeo people are good with their prayers, and with their superficial shows of patriotism. They surround their arenas with American flags, pray to God, and then beat the living crap out of God’s animals.
All seemed ordinary as the first few horses were released into the arena until stock contractor Chad Burch appeared, and CFD public relations staff immediately grew tense. They asked the media in the chutes to back off from standing where they had been, directly at the head of each of the horses.
Here we see the true character of rodeo people not just in Cheyenne, but everywhere. They are at best weaklings. A known bad actor comes onto the scene, and what happens? If rodeo people stood for truth, justice, humane treatment and the American way, they would walk up to this guy and say, “Hey, we know about you. You’re not going to abuse animals and violate our rules, because we are tough, all-American cowboys and we’re the good guys!” In fact, this known bad actor wouldn’t even be there.
But instead, these weaklings make the media back off, so hopefully they won’t see the wrongs this clown is going to commit. No one does the right thing – not the Cheyenne people, not the rodeo judge, not the contestants – no one. The sham of rodeo is exposed.
Burch Rodeo of Rozet had 44 horses in that day's performance, and Chad Burch himself acted as "header" for many of the cowboys who rode his animals. He stood at each horse's head and made sure it was aimed out of the chute before the gate swung open.
But Burch relied on more than the horses' breeding to encourage them to explode into the arena. Before each horse was released, Burch positioned a handheld Hot-Shot cattle prod near its head and neck. The small device is the size of an electric razor and delivers 5,000 to 6,000 volts of electricity at low amperage.
If rodeo bucking horses are “Born to Buck,” as audiences are constantly told ad nauseum, they would be excited to buck. They wouldn’t need to be shocked, face slapped or have their manes pulled and ripped at. They wouldn’t need the hated buck strap and to be furiously spurred, both of which are required by the supposedly humane PRCA.
If rodeo horses loved to buck, then when they refuse they wouldn’t be beaten and shocked. By the way, SHARK investigators have shocked themselves to test the painfulness of the electric prod. It hurts – bad. We have offered rodeo people money to take the shock, and they have refused. So much for “tough.” One radio talk show host who had more guts than the rodeo people described the feeling as “ten thousand white hot needles going in and out of me.”
The myth of “rank bucking stock” is exposed. They aren’t rank or wild or mean – they are abused.
According to PRCA rules, "In the riding events, use of prods and similar devices is prohibited. The only exception is a known chute-stalling animal, only with the contestant's and contractor's approval, and shall be administered only by a qualified member."
This rule is violated all the time. It is violated even after the same people are exposed over and over, year after year and place after place. Rodeo’s “humane rules” exist for public relations purposes only.
The rules also state that "standard electric prods may be used only when necessary and may only touch the animal on the hip or shoulder area."
See Previous Comment.
But in the tense moments before each cowboy and horse burst into the arena, Burch brandished the device clearly in view of the judge in the chute, CFD volunteers and members of the public sitting several feet away.
See Previous Comment.
Instead of waiting to see if a horse would stall, Burch appeared to be using the tool before the animals left the chute. To media standing directly next to Burch, it seemed like he was using the tool or trying to use it on every animal to encourage it to burst into the arena.
Like we said – the animals aren’t rank, wild or mean. They are abused.
The judge in the chute later estimated that Burch discharged the device on about one-third of his horses that day, although Burch admitted to only using it once.
The judge estimated? Rodeo judges are supposed to enforce humane rules. They don’t. They never have, and they never will. The rodeo judge who tries will very quickly be an ex-rodeo judge.
During an interview at the July 29 CFD Rodeo, Burch insisted his use of the tool is legal. But when he heard there were photographs of him using the Hot-Shot on animals in the chutes, he said, "You can't show anybody those pictures. I could get into a lot of trouble." So if his use of the tool was legal, just what was Burch worried about? And if there was misuse at the rodeo, what is CFD's responsibility to see that PRCA rules are followed?
Responsibility for violations
Outgoing CFD General Chairman Ken McCann said the PRCA rules on animal welfare are specific and added that he was surprised to hear of any problems at a CFD Rodeo.
We can’t imagine why Mr. McCann is surprised about rules violations at the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. SHARK investigators were at the 2005 "festivities", and we found the same violations and more, including injured animals being used, and we posted pictures of the abuse last year on our web site. We suspect that Mr. McCann’s surprise is more a result of learning that someone would actually step forward and report the abuse.
"Our show is wide open - there are video cameras and photographers," McCann said. "It's not like we're operating in a vacuum."
Either Chairman McCann doesn’t know his own rodeo’s rules or he’s lying. It states in bold red letters on the CFD Rodeo website, Video cameras are not allowed in the concerts or the rodeos. Why are video cameras banned at CFD if they are “wide open” to public scrutiny?
What Chairman McCann means but doesn't say is that video cameras are allowed but only if they are being used by pro-rodeo people. If CFD staff suspects that video is being taken for any other reason, they can simply ban those video cameras per the stated "no video" rule seen in the link above. In fact, SHARK witnessed many people using video cameras at the rodeo, making it obvious that the “no video” rules only applies to folks who are less than totally supportive of the rodeo. This is not "wide open", but instead selective censorship.
The nation's premier outdoor rodeo has a huge staff of volunteers and PRCA officials and visitors spread around the arena. McCann said the last thing CFD officials want is to have animal welfare violations on-site.
We posted our pictures of violations for the world to see a year earlier, and Ms. Eastwood’s story proves, neither Mr. McCann, nor anyone else from CFD or the PRCA did a thing about it.
"I'm appalled by it," he said.
Appalled, right. We are reminded of the line from the movie, “Casablanca,” where the corrupt police officer “discovers” a gambling operation that he frequents and states: “I’m shocked – shocked I tell you...” That describes just how “appalled” Mr. McCann is.
Stock contractor Harry Vold provides the stock for CFD rodeos, and McCann said Burch Rodeo must have been operating as a subcontractor.
What does this have to do with anything? Mr. Burch clearly has a reputation, and Mr. Vold or someone brought him in regardless, and then did nothing when Mr. Burch violated rules and abused horses, just as they knew he would do.
"I've known Harry for 37 years, and he just doesn't do business like that," McCann said. "These animal athletes are brought in specifically for our show, and it's just not the way we do business."
Harry Vold is certainly no Gold Standard in humane treatment of animals. Mr. Vold’s operation functions no differently than Mr. Burch’s. Not at Cheyenne or any place else. SHARK has video footage of Mr. Vold’s American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, Missouri, and the same type of thing went on there. Calves, steers, horses and bulls were all shocked. In fact, one of the shockers was Harry’s daughter, Kirsten Vold.
Click here to see SHARK's footage of the Harry Vold Rodeo Company violating PRCA regulations at the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City, Missouri.
Contestants Committee chairman Jim Mueller oversees the volunteers who work with rodeo contestants and livestock at every CFD Rodeo. Keeping track of the activities of the subcontractors isn't easy, he said.
This statement is both laughable and despicable. As the article makes clear, everyone knew what was going on. They knew this abuse would go on before it even happened. When it did happen, no one said a thing. Mr. Burch was surrounded by contestants, Harry Vold’s people and Cheyenne volunteers. Mr. Mueller, give us a break.
"We try to watch that situation," he said, "but the problem we run into is we have so many contractors here."
See Previous Comment. This guy is whining like a beaten puppy.
During this year's rodeo, he heard concerns from several of his committee members about Burch and his behavior.
"If my people see it, they can tell the PRCA, and they can fine him," he said. "They're the only people that have any hold over him."
With this statement, Mr. Mueller not only dispels the myth of the rough, tough, all-American cowboy, he presents himself and all rodeo thugs as nothing but a group of wimps. Mr. Mueller – this is YOUR rodeo, and you can’t do anything? You can’t insist on certain rules, or AT LEAST demand that PRCA rules be followed? You can’t throw bad actors, people who may well be committed criminal acts, off your property? Gee, Mr. Mueller – Just what CAN you do?
Mueller said he is saddened by the situation, but said he and the PRCA are doing everything they can to resolve it.
Saddened, hm? We are certainly overwhelmed to learn that Mr. Mueller and the PRCA are “saddened” and doing everything they can to resolve this. Were that true, Mr. Burch would be thrown out of Cheyenne and the PRCA. We will anxiously await the decision on that issue, and will include it on this site as soon as we hear about it. Forgive us, Mr. Mueller, but we won’t hold our breath while we wait.
John Davis, director of rodeo administration for the PRCA, oversees rodeo judges around the nation and said PRCA members who overuse the Hot-Shot are a small percentage of the whole.
Nonsense. Hot-Shots are regularly misused at PRCA rodeos and other rodeos. SHARK has in the past regularly reported dozens and dozens of incidents and violators, many of them repeatedly. The SHARK website has detailed information on the abuses of Hot-Shots. Mr. Davis, tell the truth.
"It's something that the whole program is aware of," he said. "We try to be strict, because by no means do we want that out there that we're mistreating animals."
The PRCA mistreats animals at each and every one of its rodeos, and Mr. Davis, the rest of the PRCA, and the people at CFD know it. CFD in particular includes “Steer Busting” and the “Wild Horse Race” among its events. These are viciously cruel events that regularly injure and kill many animals.
The PRCA rulebook is really thick for a small percentage of people, Davis said. Many of the rules are common sense.
Click here to read the PRCA’s supposed “humane rules” as well as SHARK’s ability to expose every one of these rules as either PR propaganda or worthless lip service.
Rodeo judges are trained to watch for violations and fouls as they rate the roughstock rides, he said.
Ridiculous. SHARK investigators regularly not only observe, but video document violations from the viewing stands, which puts them much farther from the action than the rodeo judges. The judges do nothing. Rodeo’s “humane rules” are a public relations scam. Looking at the photo above, with a judge on the left and a chute worker using a Hot-Shot on the right, makes this point better than words.
Davis refused to name the judge who was in the chute that day, but he said the judge saw the Hot-Shot in Burch's hand. He said the judge didn't think Burch's use was in violation of the rules, although "he wasn't sure if he was asking those contestants every time (he used the Hot-Shot)."
Some judge. Let’s call him “Judge John Doe.”
Whether one is talking about a justice system or a competition, corrupt judges mean a corrupt system. This rodeo judge is no worse than any other rodeo judge.They are all a joke, part of the Rodeo Mafia’s scam. The fact that Mr. Davis refuses to name the judge is typical of an illegitimate organization whose membership is made up of pathologically cruel and habitual liars.
Sometimes contractors will get cowboys' approval to Hot-Shot a horse before they head to the chutes once they know which animal they've drawn.
The chute judge thought Burch used the device on about one-third of his horses, Davis said, even though Burch stated that his company doesn't have any horses that stall.
The judge is typical spineless rodeo judge. He is there to score, not to enforce humane rules. Burch is a typical stock contractor – a liar who regularly abuses his animals and will look you in the eye while denying it.
Horses that don't want to leave the chute will probably not remain for long in rodeo, Davis added.
"Who knows why they refuse to leave the chute?" Davis said. "Some of them are the best animals. There is stock that goes to the National Finals that are known chute-stalling animals."
Mr. Davis is apparently confused. He claims that if the horse won’t leave the chute he wouldn’t be in the rodeo long, followed directly by stating that some horses who won’t leave the chute are the best bucking horses. Which is it, Mr. Davis?
The rules allow the prod to be used on a stalling horse before the gate is completely open because it's safer for the animal and the cowboy, Davis said.
But prods are no longer allowed to be used in bull riding, he added.
Ridiculous. They are used all the time in bull riding, including at the CFD last year. SHARK has a photo of a Hot Shot being used on a bull at the 2005 CFD right on this page! SHARK has informed the PRCA for years, either directly or through the media, and nothing is done to stop it. We have miles of footage of bulls being shocked.
"If you do, it's a fine and an automatic option of a re-ride," he said. "You just don't get bulls that stall."
If this is true, Mr. Davis, give us your list of people who have been fined for shocking bulls, or horses, or any other humane violation. The fact is that the PRCA doesn’t release that information, probably because its membership is rarely if ever disciplined for humane violations.
Cindy Schonholtz, the PRCA's animal welfare representative, said PRCA fines range from a $25 fine to suspension or expulsion from the association.
Credibility is a real problem for rodeo people in general. While rodeo people claim to care about their animals, this article points out very well that rodeo animals are in fact mistreated, and that supposed humane rules are a joke. But of all the people in rodeo, there is no one with less credibility than Ms. Schonholtz. Ms. Schonholtz’s job is to cover up rodeo animal abuse, NOT to promote animal welfare.
"It depends on the violation and how serious it is," she said.
Violations range in severity from Class 1 to Class 3. The fine for improper use of a cattle prod is $250 for the first offense, and the fine doubles for the subsequent violation.
Everyone in rodeo knows that these fines are a pittance compared to the money made from horses and bulls that “perform well" from being shocked. But who needs to worry about fines anyway, when rules are never enforced?
Schonholtz said she doesn't think it's the "norm" for the prod to be used on all horses before they have had a chance to stall in the chute, but she added that a stalled horse presents a grave danger to the cowboy on its back.
Use of the Hot-Shot at least "gets everyone out of the chute safe," she said.
As previously stated, this claim is utter nonsense. But then, Ms. Schonholtz’s title of “Humane Coordinator” is equally nonsensical. Ms. Schonholtz’s job is completely contrary to her title. In SHARK’s dealings with Ms. Schonholtz, we’ve seen her to be a second rate spin doctor who covers for rodeo abuses.
To encourage stalling horses to leave the chute, Burch said he has other options available to him.
"I could hit them with a stick or poke them - I could poke holes in 'em, but that would hurt 'em. Or, I could just touch 'em with the Hot-Shot."
The rodeo world claims its horses are “Born to Buck.” Over and over you will hear that claim if you go to watch rodeo animal abuse. So why does Mr. Burch, and the other rodeo stock contractors have stalling horses? The answer is simple and obvious. These are tame, domesticated animals who don’t want trouble. They are abused into acting wild. “Born to Buck” is a lie.
PRCA rules stipulate that an electric prod can only be used on a stalled animal "with the contestant's and contractor's approval, and shall be administered only by a qualified member."
SHARK has witnessed and documented electric prods being used on horses as many as twenty times, including shocking them in the head.
Rodeo cowboys have differing opinions on the value of this rule, sometimes referred to as the "Hot-Shot rule."
Jamie Willert of Kadoka, S.D., said that stock contractors always ask for his consent before using the Hot-Shot on horses. But cowboys sometimes have their reasons for saying no, he said.
"If you draw a piece of junk, you say no, and you can get a re-ride," Willert said. When horses stall in the chutes, contractors must get another horse for the cowboy to use in the re-ride.
“A piece of junk.” Thank you, Mr. Willert, for accurately representing the mindset of rodeo thugs. You sound like a real poor excuse for a human being, but you are more truthful than a spin doctor like Cindy Schonholtz. To a rodeo person, a horse, calf, steer or bull is only worth what it can score for the contestant. If the horse doesn’t buck well, it is considered “Junk.”
Saddle bronc rider Rod Hay of Wildwood, Alberta, Canada, said when he started rodeoing in the 1980s, contractors used the device much more freely and often without asking permission.
"They always used to just do it," he said. "It was just the way it was."
He said he likes when contractors use the device because it keeps the horse from hesitating.
"Sometimes they'll be hesitant to leap, but it's way better for them to Hot-Shot 'em," he said.
This is another quote that demonstrates the pervasiveness of humane violations. Rodeo people do what they want to the animals, and rodeo associations cover for them with propaganda, fake “humane rules,” and a humane coordinator who only deflects the real issues.
Although the only approved spots to use the device are on the hindquarters or the shoulders, Hay said contractors have different ideas about where it's most effective.
"Sometimes in the butt, sometimes in the belly," he said.
Burch said he often ignores the Hot-Shot rule.
"I think you waive your right to the Hot-Shot rule when you get on one of our critters," he said.
These previous two sentences blatantly illustrate the real story of rodeo’s humane rules and the mentality of these abusers.
Burch emphasized that every horse in his lineup leaves the chutes quickly or else.
"I'm ready (with the Hot-Shot) for each critter," he said. "Some people might call me a little hard-headed."
You’re not hard-headed, Mr. Burch. You are an animal-abusing moron who preys on those with no power so you don’t have to get a real job. But you are a far more truthful animal-abusing moron than the people who run your association, like PRCA Commissioner Troy Ellerman.
Burch Rodeo benefits from having horses that explode from the chutes: A horse that stalls is valued at only about $1,000, while a prized bucking horse that never stalls can fetch $25,000, Burch said.
Another excellent point from Ms. Eastwood. While rodeo people claim that they would never mistreat their animals, they in fact make more money for animals who “perform.” As Mr. Burch makes clear, they are will to do whatever they have to do to make these tame, domesticated animals act wild and crazy.
Burch said he never has been fined for his use of the Hot-Shot, but recently a cowboy got angry when he used the Hot-Shot on a horse without approval.
Thank you again Mr. Burch for exposing the PRCA as a toothless organization of lying phony cowboys. His abuses are well known, and still he is in business and in no way disciplined.
"When they turn out backwards, it makes me mad - I have to remind 'em," Burch said. "Sometimes (horses) are like kids, and they don't want to do what I'm asking 'em to do."
Mr. Burch, everyone reading this is so thankful we’re not one of your children.
Use of a Hot-Shot is a quick reminder, he said.
Sounds like the mentality of a torturer.
Although he's supposed to ask the cowboy before using the tool, Burch said he holds it out in the open so the cowboys can see that he intends to use it.
"If common sense plays a part, I won't ever be fined for it," he said.
Electric prods and more
Steve Hindi of the Illinois-based group SHARK, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, says Burch is probably right: He might not ever be fined for his use of the Hot-Shot, even if it is in violation of PRCA rules.
"We caught them using it at Cheyenne (Frontier Days) last year," Hindi said. "It happens all the time."
Hindi's group goes to rodeos and collects video and still photographic proof of PRCA animal welfare violations and submits them to the organization and to local governments in hopes of getting perpetrators prosecuted.
"I would say (Hot-Shot violations) are the most easily proven, but supposedly they don't allow jerk downs (of calves) or tail twisting either, but it happens," Hindi said. And although the tool is approved for use by the PRCA, the product's manufacturer doesn't recommend its use on horses.
"We recommended the Hot-Shot for use on cattle and hogs for commercial movement," said marketing director Jim Bartell. "We don't condone it for use on horses, because cattle and hogs have thicker skin. We've never done any testing on horses."
"Commercial movement." Animal farming. Hot-Shot’s manufacturer has explicitly stated their product is not intended for use in rodeos—and especially not on horses. So why does the PRCA allow Hot-Shots to be used in rodeo at all?
Hindi said the PRCA doesn't reveal statistics on how many fines are levied against rule violators every year, so it's hard to tell how effective the association's enforcement is of its own animal welfare rules.
The PRCA also does not reveal animal injury and death reports. Instead it claims a ridiculously low injury rate without any basis for its claims. The injury rate claimed by the PRCA and other rodeo associations is as illegitimate as its “humane rules.”
"They say they only use (electric prods) on the chute-stallers," Hindi said. "We say, 'Leave the chute-stallers at home.' We're being told that they're born to buck, so if they're born to buck, they shouldn't be able to wait to get out of the chute."
Hindi characterizes the PRCA's animal welfare rules as nothing more than public relations.
"It's a mess," he said. "It's so completely opposite of what they present - all this Americana and stuff about cowboys being truthful. It's all crap."
Local wild horse advocate Jeannine Stallings said she's not surprised by the allegations that electric prods were being used illegally at CFD.
"I hate rodeo and think it's an absolute orgy of animal abuse," she said recently from her home in Cheyenne. "We need to find a meeting of the minds, because I don't care how carefully they feed them or how they load them, those animals aren't there by choice."
Stallings said the behavior might be in violation of Title 6 of city code that states, "No person shall permit, induce or encourage any animal to perform through the use of chemical, mechanical, electrical or manual devices in a manner likely to cause physical injury, suffering or trauma to the animal."
Managing public opinion
"What the public sees is their reality," Schonholtz said, adding that the PRCA is well aware that attendance depends on overall public support of rodeo.
In her position at PRCA headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., Schonholtz spends the majority of her time with questions that come from animal rights groups.
Actually, Ms. Schonholtz spends the majority of her time avoiding questions that come from animal groups. SHARK investigators have repeatedly tried to obtain information from Ms. Schonholtz regarding animal treatment, injury reports and death reports. What we always get are terse statements that mean “I won’t be telling you anything. Goodbye.”
After years of protests, the organization developed a 20-page report on animal welfare that stipulates rules on animal transportation, handling, housing, weight limitations and approved equipment that can be used by cowboys.
As Ms. Eastwood’s extremely well-written article proves, this book is nothing more than propaganda.
"The animal welfare program itself has been around for 25 years," she said. "There's been one person designated to handle that for about 14 years."
The PRCA’s “Animal Welfare Coordinator” never has and never will pursue humane initiatives, because that would mean putting the PRCA out of business.
Teaching the public that animal welfare is important to the PRCA also is a huge part of Schonholtz's job.
"It's such a big part of our business," she said. "Showing the public healthy, well cared-for animals is important so they leave with the right impression that we do care for our animals."
“Impression” being the key word.
When new stock contractors come into the association, they're on probation for a year, she said.
"All of our members sign a form when they pay their dues. It's up to the member to read the rules," she added.
Oddly enough, Ms. Schonholtz is partially correct – the PRCA membership does have a responsibility. But it is up to the PRCA to provide enforcement, and it clearly doesn’t. In fact, wouldn’t it be up to the “Animal Welfare Coordinator” (Ms. Schonholtz) to make certain that humane rules are being followed?
Instead, it is animal protection groups like SHARK who document abuses, while the PRCA and other rodeo associations constantly redouble their efforts to stop us. That is because the PRCA’s humane rules are a joke.
Rodeo advocacy group Friends of Rodeo helps rodeo committees defend the sport against animal rights groups.
From its Web site, the group makes several suggestions:
• Rodeo equipment is used to cue and control animals. It must be used in a proper manner. Learn how to be a skillful animal handler before you get to the rodeo.
• Never strike or poke an animal with equipment.
• Don't overuse the electric cattle prod. Never hold the prod on the animal and buzz it continually. Holding a prod on an animal that is moving in the desired direction is not productive and does not teach the animal how to respond in the future.
Interestingly, SHARK has been at some of the same rodeos as Friends of Rodeo (FOR). We attended a rodeo in Michigan in 2005 where an FOR representative was announced and took her bows. An Indiana resident, she was there to support the rodeo. When the very guidelines FOR has on web site were repeatedly violated (including one horse that was shocked by two people at the same time), the FOR representative said nothing.FOR does have some good guidelines on its website, but as with rodeo’s humane rules, they exist for public relations purposes only.