Humane society investigates rodeo abuse allegation

October 24, 2002

Inland Valley Voice (California)

Joanna Corman

SAN DIMAS -- The Inland Valley Humane Society is investigating an allegation of animal abuse at a rodeo earlier this month.

An Irvine woman contacted the humane society about the alleged abuse and sent a videotape she took at the rodeo.

The tape shows an employee of Growney Brothers Rodeo Co., the rodeo's animal supplier based in Red Bluff, Calif., using a "small hand-held electric prod" on four horses, said Bill Harford, executive director of the humane society.

"We believe there are going to be citations issued," Harford said. "We have taken this as a very serious matter."

Punishment would be left up to a judge. A fine could be as high as $16,000, Harford said.

"The tape shows a cowboy on a horse getting ready to come out of a rodeo chute," Harford said. "Just before the chute door would open, it shows an employee of Growney Brothers Rodeo Co. reaching down next to the horse and the horse reacting to what appears to be this illegal device."

The use of electric prods on animals at rodeos to make the animal rear up is illegal, Harford said. This is the first complaint of animal abuse at the San Dimas rodeo.

The rodeo, which took place the first weekend of October, contracts with Growney Brothers to provide horses, bulls, steer and calves. If found guilty, only Growney Brothers would be cited, Harford said.

The rodeo's attorney, Chris Klingerman, said the rodeo board did not know the device, called a hot shot, was being used.

"We had never authorized it nor do we condone it," he said. "We are taking steps to make sure this will never happen again."

An electric prod can be used in two cases at a rodeo, Klingerman said. The first is in a chute when the animal could cause injury to the cowboy or itself. It can also be used in transporting animals.

"We don't allow them to be used in any occasion except in an emergency circumstance," he said.