Company cited for prodding animals

'Hot Shot' used at San dimas Rodeo

November 01, 2002

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (California)

By Diana Roemer, Staff Writer

Friday, November 01, 2002 - SAN DIMAS- A company that performed at the San Dimas Rodeo was cited for violating state rodeo law for using an electronic prod on horses, Humane Society officials said Friday.

The company, Growney Brothers Rodeo Co., of Red Bluff, allegedly used an electronic prod called a Hot Shot on horses just prior to their release into the ring for bucking bronco competitions Oct. 5 and 6.

Company owner John Growney said he's innocent, that the law allows the device.

"It protects the cowboy and ... the horse. I don't think there will be any charges brought against me -- I'd fight it -- I'd be crazy not to," he said.

The Inland Valley Humane Society has charged the rodeo company with the malicious mischief breech. Conviction brings a fine between of $500 to $5,000, according to the law established in 2000 for humane care of rodeo and carnival animals. The law states no electronic prod may be used on any animal once it is in a holding chute, unless its use is to protect spectators or participants.

Growney said he doesn't know how much voltage the prod delivers to the animals, but when the animal even sees it in a handler's hands, he moves.

"The idea of hot-shotting an animal out (of its chute) these days is to make sure he doesn't go the wrong way. It's something we don't abuse and try not to use at all -- but it's available to us," Growney said.

The act was caught on tape by animal activist Pat Vinet, of a group called SHARK from Irvine.

"We''ve identified the individuals who appear to be using a small hand-held electric prod... a hot stick called a "Hot Shot," Harford said. "That is against the law."

Harford said that the humane society typically hears about such acts, but gets very little solid evidence proving them.

"The video shows cowboys sitting on a bronc ready to go out of the chute and it appears that they reached down and they touched the horse at the same time as they were opening the gate -- and when you see it you see that they have some kind of device in their hand," Harford said.

The device appears to startle the horses, he said.

Humane Society officials filed the charges, Harford said.

Hot Shot manufacturer Jim Bartel said the device is not meant for horses.

"The device is for cattle and pigs, animals that have to be prodded to move in a certain direction,: said Bartel, a marketing manager for Miller Manufacturing Co. from Savage, Minn.

The device, which runs on two 9-volt batteries, probably feels like a bee sting, he said.

"It doesn't burn, but it makes them jump. It is more humane than using a stick with a nail protruding out of it, which is how cowboys used to move stock," Bartel said. "This is much more humane."

But Harford said it's still wrong.

"They didn't run their stock the way the law says they're supposed to. Our job as to the law is to put the evidence together and then act on it."

San Dimas rodeo officials say they were not aware Growney was using the device.

"We're cooperating fully. If it's illegal, it's an issue Growney has to deal with," said committee member and City Councilman Sandy McHenry.

"Growney is responsive, fair and decent and he cares about his animals. But I'm not in a position to defend or condemn it. That's the humane society's job. They'll sort it out,' McHenry said.