Valley Center rodeo focus of animal cruelty complaint

July 23, 2003

San Diego Union-Tribune

By Elizabeth Fitzsimons, Staff Writer

VALLEY CENTER - The San Diego Humane Society is investigating a complaint of animal cruelty at the Valley Center rodeo in May.

The investigation, begun this month, will determine whether workers at the Western Days Rodeo used stun guns on bulls before they were released from the chute. The use of electric prods or similar devices on animals inside the holding chute is illegal unless participants or spectators are at risk.

Gina Mitchell, chairwoman of the rodeo committee, said she could not comment on the case because it was under investigation.

An Orange County woman who said she videotaped cowboys shocking the animals in the chutes sent her tape to the Humane Society with a letter of complaint. The woman, Pat Vinet, is a volunteer investigator with the organization SHARK, which stands for Showing Animals Respect and Kindness. Vinet said she secretly tapes activity at rodeos to record animal abuse.

Vinet said her videotape plainly shows cowboys shocking several bulls before they leave the chute.

"They go wild," Vinet said of the bulls. "That's the whole point. You do it right as the chute gate is opened. So they go barreling out kicking and bucking with all their might to provide better entertainment."

Gigi Bacon Theberge, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said she was not aware of similar complaints concerning past rodeos. "Anytime we're exposing animals to stressful, harmful stimulus for no purpose other than entertainment or monetary gain, that is something we should all be very concerned about, Theberge said.

"It's something that we, as an agency that enforces animal cruelty laws, take very seriously."

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