The following is a list of supposed "humane rules" received directly from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in February 2005. For many years, whenever accusations of animal abuse surface, the PRCA has claimed that it has "over sixty humane rules" for the protection of rodeo animals. It took SHARK twelve years to get a copy of these much-proclaimed, so-called "humane rules." There are exactly sixty of them, and not one more.
Over a third of these rules have absolutely nothing to do with the humane treatment of animals, and we point these out. The rules that are focused on humane treatment are loaded with loopholes that render them worthless. Many of the rules are redundant, and two of them (Rules 9 and 43) are duplicates. Adhering to many of these “rules” is optional, which means they aren't rules at all. “Guidelines" may even be too strong a word. Perhaps it would be more accurate to categorize them as suggestions.
Finally, there is the problem of enforcement. In short, there is no evidence to indicate there is any. SHARK investigators document PRCA stock contractors committing the same infractions year after year after year. Furthermore, the PRCA refuses to divulge the names of those charged with or found guilty of humane violations, or the penalties imposed. Likewise, records of animal injuries and deaths are kept top secret, as are veterinary reports, assuming they exist at all.
The PRCA in particular, and rodeo associations in general, deliberately hide the number of animals injured and killed, and there are many documented cases of PRCA rodeo producers lying about the fates of their victims. Their cruelty to animals, along with their refusal to open their records to public scrutiny, ensure that rodeo will never be a legitimate sport, or even a popular one, regardless of assertions promoted by rodeo propagandists that rodeo is the next breakout sport. By the way, they’ve been making those same tired assertions for decades.
Given the lack of substance, many loopholes and redundancies, and outright obfuscation in this list of supposed humane rules, it is understandable why the PRCA has withheld them for so long. Now that those rules have finally been pried from the PRCA's grasp, we hope people will give them the careful scrutiny they deserve, and see just how worthless they truly are.
SHARK's comments in bold.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) has been enforcing rules to protect the livestock participating in their sanctioned events since 1947. Through the years, the PRCA has created the most comprehensive set of animal welfare rules in the sport of rodeo, creating a model for other rodeo associations to follow.
Neither the violations, nor the names of violators of the PRCA's humane rules are made public. Likewise, disciplinary action (assuming there ever is any) imposed against violators is kept secret. Given the recurrence of the same behavior year after year by some PRCA stock contractors, there is no reason to believe that there are any sanctions whatsoever for violations of PRCA "humane rules."
It is also very important to note that there is no rule stipulating humane euthanasia for fatally injured animals. SHARK investigators have documented numerous instances of mortally injured animals being left to die slowly and without veterinary care even in the presence of supposed veterinarians.
Furthermore, in one of its most insidious public relations moves, the PRCA claims to have a "Humane Coordinator" on staff. We have never seen any evidence of the 'Humane Coordinator' ensuring, promoting, or being held accountable by the PRCA for humane issues. On the contrary, they are the propagandists who do everything possible to deny and/or defend animal abuse when SHARK investigators and other humane organizations document it at PRCA rodeos. The 'Humane Coordinator' also spends vast amounts of time educating rodeo committees and holding special seminars on how they should deal with the media when their rodeo kills or seriously injures animals or when they get caught on videotape committing animal abuse.
General. These rules are intended to ensure the humane treatment of rodeo animals and shall be in effect for all PRCA-sanctioned events. No animal shall be treated inhumanely by any Member.
Redundant. Rules 1, 37, 38 & 40 all cover the same basic issue. One well-worded rule could have sufficed. Beyond that, the PRCA's claim that, "No animal shall be treated inhumanely by any Member" is totally debunked by two of the PRCA's own events – steer roping and calf roping. Both events are inherently cruel and life-threatening. In fact, the PRCA recently renamed calf roping "tie down roping" in an Orwellian attempt to deflect criticism from the fact that a three to four month old animal is targeted in an event that is indefensible. In the face of valid criticism, the PRCA changed only the name, nothing more.
Sore, lame, sick or injured animal. Animals for all events will be inspected before the draw, and no sore, lame, sick or injured animal or animal with impaired eyesight shall be permitted in the draw at any time. Should an animal become sick or incapacitated between the time it is drawn and the time it is scheduled to be used in competition, that animal shall not be used in competition and another animals should be drawn for the contestant.
More redundancy. Over a half dozen of these strikingly similar rules cover the treatment of sore, lame, sick or injured animals. One or two well-worded rules could easily have sufficed. Furthermore, this rule fails to specify who is to inspect the animals and make the calls. If the rule is suggesting self-regulation, which seems to be the case, it’s meaningless. It is very telling that the veterinarian who is supposed to be on hand at all events is given no authority whatsoever in these "humane rules."
Veterinarian. A rodeo committee shall ensure that a veterinarian is present for every performance and section of slack.
If the rodeo does not hire a vet, they can be fined. That is, if anyone reports it. But here’s where it gets interesting: the cost of the fine is $500, while the cost of hiring a vet would be in the area of $500 to $1000 for a single performance. Violation of this rule is the same or cheaper than adherence. The PRCA provides incentive rather than deterrence for violating its own rule.
Additionally, the rule gives the vet no say over the use of an animal. That authority has been given to the rodeo judge in rule #42, which states:
"If an animal that is drawn in a riding event becomes sick or crippled before it is competed on, a judge must pass on the animal’s inability to be used before it can be shipped or replaced in the draw."
If the PRCA were serious about humane treatment and requiring veterinarians at its rodeos, the rodeo would only be held if a large animal veterinarian were present. Violations would be punishable by permanent ejection from the PRCA of the stock contractors and complicit judges. Rodeo vets should be publicly announced, and should be available to answer inquiries regarding the condition of all injured animals.
The vet should have absolute say over the use of an animal and the treatment of an injured animal. Authority accorded to the vet at a PRCA rodeo is conspicuously absent throughout the PRCA's much-touted 60 humane rules.
Rowels. No locked rowels, or rowels that will be locked on spurs may be used on bareback or saddle bronc horses. Spurs must be dulled.
Repetition. Rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52 are all very similar. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes.
Removal of an injured animal. A conveyance must be available, supplied by the stock contractor, and shall be used, where practicable, to remove animals from the arena in case of injury. The conveyance must be large enough to remove a horse or bull. Injured calves shall be removed from the arena in a pickup truck, calf stretcher or by conveyance. Animals removed from the arena pursuant to this section shall be placed in a situation as isolated and comfortable as possible to reduce stress.
"A conveyance" leaves far too much latitude as to exactly how the injured animal is removed. SHARK investigators have documented a piece of fencing being used to remove an injured animal – hardly an appropriate conveyance for an animal so severely crippled it can’t exit the arena under its own power. Also, the term "where practicable" again puts the form and use of "the conveyance" at the discretion of just about anyone. What is "practicable" and what isn’t is left entirely to the discretion of someone not specified. This is far too vague to qualify as a rule.
Must be humane. Any injured livestock shall be humanely removed from the arena before continuing the rodeo contest or performance.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. No contestant wants to risk possible injury or to deal with the last contestant's injured victim left on the arena floor when he is trying to make money.
No Sharp Objects in Cinch, Saddle, Girth or Flank Straps. No sharp or cutting object in cinch, saddle girth, or flank straps shall be permitted. Flank straps used for horses must either be sheepskin-lined or neoprene-lined flank straps and shall be of the quick release type. Sheepskin-lined or neoprene-lined flank straps shall be placed on the animals so the lined portion is over both flanks of the animals. In the bull riding, a soft cotton rope at least 5/8" in diameter is acceptable as a flank strap and does not require the sheepskin or neoprene lining.
This rule outlaws sharp objects in cinch, saddle, and flank straps, but makes no mention of the sharp objects animals with which animals are poked and jabbed prior to their release from the chute. We have footage of cowboys sticking animals in the ribs with wires and sharpened steel rods while they are trapped in the holding chutes and unable to escape the torment.
Prods and Other Artificial Stimuli. Standard electric prods shall be used only as specified in the Official Rodeo Rules and in the Bylaws. If a prod is used, the animal shall only be touched on the hip or shoulder area. No other artificial stimuli shall be used (with the exception of rodeo equipment and gear commonly used and accepted in connection with the respective events at PRCA-sanctioned rodeos.)
We have documented numerous instances of cowboys shocking animals on other areas of their bodies, including their faces and their very sensitive necks while PRCA judges watch. There is no indication that the prod prohibition is ever enforced.
Prods. In the riding events, use of prods and similar devices is prohibited. The only exception is a known chute-stalling animal, only with the contestants and contractors approval, and shall be administered only by a qualified member.
Redundant. This rule is very similar to Rule 8 and identical to rule 43 (10.1.5 in the PRCA rulebook). The chute-staller exception is nothing more than an all purpose loophole. Also, what about these “known chute-stallers”? The PRCA’s mantra is that these animals were born to buck. So why don’t these chute-stallers want to buck? More importantly, why are they brought to rodeos in the first place if they are "known chute-stallers?" Finally, as commented on with regard to the previous rule, there is no indication that the prod prohibition is ever enforced.
No Animal May be in the Draw Twice on the Same Day. In all riding events, stock can not be placed in the draw twice in the same day, with the exception of rerides, unless approved by the event representative and the Director of Rodeo Administration.
This rule disallows the multiple use of riding stock – unless of course it is decided that the animal(s) will be used again, meaning it isn't a rule at all. Even more disturbing is the complete absence of a prohibition on the reuse of calves and steers, even though they are the animals who are most brutally treated and most often injured and killed. It is no coincidence that they are also the cheapest animals to replace.
Unsafe Arena Conditions. If the arena conditions are deemed at any time to be unsafe by the arena director, a majority of the event representatives present, any judge, or the primary stock contractor, competition may be stopped until which time the arena conditions are deemed satisfactory by the individual or individuals who initially determined the arena conditions were unsafe.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. This rule has to do with the safety of the human participants rather than the rodeo's animal victims.
No Hold Overs. No cattle that have been used may be held over from one calendar year to the next.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. It has more to do with contestants not wanting to compete against animals who have learned how to avoid being victimized. Both calves and steers learn that they can dodge or stall to keep from being abused.
No switching of events. No steers may be switched in events unless approved by the event representative or the Director of Rodeo Administration.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. This has more to do with giving a contestant an animal that behaves in a predictable manner.
Running of Timed Event Stock. All timed event stock shall be run through event chutes and through the arena prior to the start of contest where conditions permit.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. As with the previous rule, it has more to do with giving a contestant an animal that behaves in a predictable way.
Unsatisfactory Animals. An Event Representative may declare particular animal unsatisfactory. Upon notification, either written or verbal, the stock contractor or Rodeo Committee shall eliminate such animal(s) from competition draw.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. An animal might be declared unsatisfactory because its horns have not been trimmed as much as called for in the rules, or because a bull or horse has demonstrated a talent for injuring contestants. While rodeos claim their animals are mean and dangerous, animals that actually fit that description are quickly culled from the lineup.
No Change of Events. If an animal has been declared unsatisfactory for an event, that animal may not be used for another event without the approval of the Event Representative.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. See our comment for rule #15.
Trimming the Horns. Stock contractors and the Rodeo Committee will be expected to cooperate in trimming the horns of steers that are not able to pass through the timed event chute.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Steer Wrestling Cattle. The horns on steer wrestling cattle must be blunted to the size of a dime.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Steer Roping Cattle. Plaster and rebar must be placed around the horns of steer roping cattle prior to contesting, and all such steers should have horn wraps that extend 4 inches down the jaw from the base of the horns. The horns on steer wrestling cattle must be blunted to the size of a quarter.
Steer roping is the most abusive and dangerous event in PRCA rodeos. The "protection" given these animals exists for public relations purposes only. One look at SHARK's extensive video documentation of steer roping clearly demonstrates the undeniable brutality of this event. It is as inherently cruel and dangerous as it is indefensible.
Team Roping Cattle. All team roping cattle shall be protected by horn wraps. The horns on all team roping cattle must be blunted to the size of a dime.
Horn wraps are wholly inadequate for the protection of animals being roped by a two-person team that first ropes, and then pulls their victim's front and hindquarters in opposite directions. Furthermore, blunting the horns of these animals has nothing to do with their humane treatment.
Blunting of Bulls Horns. All horned animals used in the PRCA bull riding shall have their horns blunted to at least the diameter of a half-dollar.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
No Use Other Than Contest Events. An animal used in the contest events of a PRCA rodeo may not be used in any way, other than in the contest events of that rodeo, until after the last time that animal has been used in the contest events at that rodeo, unless otherwise approved by the Event Representative.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. Furthermore, it contains one of the PRCA’S hallmark loopholes, so that whatever the reason for the rule, it can be easily circumvented anyway.
Injured Animals at Rodeo. The stock contractor of record shall be responsible for notifying the Central Entry Office of riding event stock that becomes injured and is in the draw for later competition time.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. It's all about performance management. PRCA rules call for an injured animal to be kept separate from other animals, so in that case it would not be accidentally put back in the line-up.
Ineligibility Time. If a riding event animal is replaced in the draw at a rodeo, that animal cannot be used for a period of 48 hours following the first performance that the animal was replaced.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Roping Calves. All roping calves must be either native, brahma, or of a similar cross. Weight for the calves shall be a minimum of 220 pounds and a maximum of 280 pounds with fresh calves not to exceed a maximum of 260 pounds.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Steer Wrestling Cattle. All steer-wrestling cattle must be Mexican Corriente steers. All steer wrestling cattle must weigh a minimum of 450 pounds and a maximum of 600 pounds.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Team Roping. The maximum weight for animals that are to be used in team roping is 650 per head and the minimum is 450 per head. All team roping steers must be Corriente steers.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Steer Roping. All steer roping steers must be Mexican Corriente steers. All steers used in the steer-roping event must weigh a minimum of 450 pounds and a maximum of 600 pounds.
Yet another ground rule of a particular contest parading as animal welfare. This rule, just as so many of the preceding rules, has nothing to do with animal welfare.
Construction of Chutes. Chutes must be constructed to prevent injury to an animal. Maintenance men and equipment shall be available at chutes to assist in removal of any animal should it become necessary.
Chutes are definitely not constructed to prevent injuries. First, the chutes are made of steel and are unpadded. We have filmed animals falling over backward in chutes, as well as animals getting their legs hung up between chute gate railings as they try frantically to escape.
Conditions of Arena. The arena shall be as free as possible of rocks, holes and unnecessary obstacles.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare, but rather, with the safety of the contestants. Additionally, it is just a slight variation of #11 (Rule 4.8.3 Unsafe Arena Conditions).
No small animals. No small animals or pets allowed in the arena, unless part of a contract act.
This has nothing to do with animal welfare. This is basic common sense.
Removal of Livestock after Competition. Livestock must be removed from the arena after each competition is completed.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. This is basic common sense having more to do with the safety of the contestants.
Neckrope Must be Used in Tie-Down Roping. In tie-down roping, a neckrope must be used. Calves may not be intentionally flipped backward. Contestant must adjust rope and reins in such a manner that will prevent horse from dragging calf. Rope to be removed from calf’s body as soon possible after “tie” is approved. Roping calves shall be strong and healthy.
Calves are flipped backward and dragged all of the time. We’ve got plenty of video documentation to prove it. Unfortunately, the PRCA will not meet with us to jointly review the footage.
No Stimulants or Hypnotics. No stimulants or hypnotics may be given to any animal.
This rule has nothing to do with animal welfare. This is basic common sense having more to do with safety to the contestants.
Animals Excessively Excited in Chute. Any animal that becomes excessively excited and lays down in the chute repeatedly, or tries repeatedly to jump out of the chute, or in any way appears to be in danger or injuring himself, may be released immediately.
SHARK investigators regularly videotape animals that behave as described in this rule. It is very rare that they are released, and then only after excessive cruelty has been inflicted, including but not limited to beating, the use of electric shock, thumbs in the eyes and ears, ear twisting and pulling, tail twisting, and raking tails back and forth over steel fences. As with all rodeo cruelty violations, the abuse occurs within the clear view of judges.
Confinement and Transportation. No stock shall be confined or transported in vehicles beyond a period of 24 hours without being unloaded, properly fed and watered.
Abuse of Animal. If a member abuses an animal by any unnecessary non-competitive or competitive action, he may be disqualified for the remainder of the rodeo and fined $200 for the first offense, with that fine progressively doubling with each offense thereafter.
Repetitive. Rules 1, 37, 38 & 40 all cover the same basic issue. One well-worded rule could have sufficed. Beyond that, SHARK has ample video documentation of animals being beaten, slapped and punched in the face, hit with a beer bottle, repeatedly and deliberately slammed into the chute gates, and tails twisted, raked, and bent to breaking, among other abuses. PRCA judges are present and have no problem with it.
Mistreatment of Animal. Any member guilty of mistreatment of livestock anywhere on the rodeo grounds shall be fined $250 for the first offense, with that fine progressively doubling with any offense thereafter.
This is essentially a repeat of rules 1, 37, 38 & 40 all cover the same basic issue. One well-worded rule could have sufficed. Unfortunately, redundancy in no way insures enforcement, as we detail in our response to rule #37.
Tie Downs Covered. All chain, metal and wire tie-downs and bosals must be covered.
Apparent injury during competition. Should a riding event animal show evidence of injury inflicted by a contestant during competition, that contestant will be fined $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense. For the third and subsequently reported offense, contestant will be declared ineligible to compete for 30 days following the infraction.
More repetition. Rules 1, 37, 38 & 40 all cover the same basic issue. One well-worded rule could have sufficed. Furthermore, SHARK investigators have investigated rodeos since 1993. At no time have we ever heard of a contestant being called for violating this rule. This is not because there has never been a violation, but simply because there is no enforcement.
Delay Further Use of Animal Injured. Should a riding event animal be apparently injured by a contestant during competition, thus resulting in the contestant being reported for such a violation, that animal cannot be used until such time the injury has completely healed.
Extreme redundancy. Over a half dozen of these rules have to do with the treatment of sore, lame, sick or injured animals.
If an animal that is drawn in a riding event becomes sick or crippled before it is competed on, a judge must pass on the animal’s inability to be used before it can be shipped or replaced in the draw.
More redundancy. Over a half dozen of these rules have to do with the treatment of sore, lame, sick or injured animals. Beyond that, it is outrageous that a rodeo judge (the same judges who stand by as infractions are regularly committed) has the authority to pull an animal from competition. That should be the job of the rodeo vet. Unfortunately, the PRCA's "humane rules" give no authority to the rodeo vet, assuming that one is even present.
Use of Prods Prohibited, Except for Chute Stalling. In the riding events, use of prods or similar devices is prohibited. The only exception shall be in the saddle bronc riding and the bareback riding, and in the case of a known chute stalling animal, and only if agreed upon by the contestant, the stock contractor and the judge before the contestant’s competition begins. In this instance, the prod may not exceed 12 inches in length.
Another repeat. Rule 8 is similar, and rule 9 is the same (10.1.5 in the PRCA rulebook).
Bareback Riding. Cinched and Latigos. Cinches on the bareback riggings shall be made of mohair or neoprene and shall be at least eight inches in width at the center, but must be tapered to accommodate cinch “D” rings. Latigos must be of leather only.
Bareback pads. Required bareback pads are to completely cover the underside of the ridding, and are to extend a full 2 inches behind the rigging.
Pads Must Cover Underside of Rigging. Pads used under riggings must be leather-covered on both sides. No hair pads will be allowed. Only a high density foam pad, at least 3/4 inch think will be allowed. In addition, the pad must have leather over the bars 3/19 inch think extending at least 1/2 inch on either side of the handle bars.
A rider shall be disqualified is riding with rowels too sharp or locked.
This is an echo of rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes.
Spur rowels. Spur rowels must have five or more points.
The rowel rule ad nauseam. Rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52 are very similar. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes.
Saddle bronc Rider Disqualification. A saddle bronc rider shall be disqualified for riding with locked rowels, or rowels that will lock on spurs, and/or rowels not dulled.
Extreme redundancy. Rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52 are similar. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes and to bring the PRCA closer to the sixty rules it needed to manufacture.
Bull Riding. No bull Tails Under Flank Straps. No bull tails will be allowed under flank straps.
No Sharp Spurs. Rider shall not use sharp spurs.
Yet more redundancy. Rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52 are similar. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes.
A bull rider shall be disqualified for using sharp spurs.
Even more redundancy. Rules 4, 47, 48, 49, 51, and 52 are similar. One well-worded rule would suffice, but one rule instead becomes six for public relations purposes and to bring them closer to the magic number: 60.
Lining for Timed Event Boxes. In order to protect the contestant’s horse, the back and the side opposite the timed event chute of the timed event boxes shall either have a lover rail which is no less than 3” above ground level and have no obstruction in the arena from the ground level up to the lover rail or be lined form the ground level up to a minimum of 3” high with a solid panel. Box pads are likewise required for each timed event box.
Drawn Animal Becomes Sick or Crippled. If an animal that is drawn in a pen in a timed event becomes sick or crippled before it is competed on, a judge must pass on the animal’s inability to be used before it can be shipped or replaced in the draw.
Even more redundancy still. Over a half dozen of these rules have to do with the treatment of sore, lame, sick or injured animals. Beyond that, it is outrageous that a rodeo judge (the same judges who stand by as infractions are regularly committed) has the authority to pull an animal from competition. That should be the job of the rodeo vet. Unfortunately, the PRCA's "humane rules" give no authority to the rodeo vet, assuming that one is even present.
No Consecutive Runs on Same Horse. In timed events, provided there are other qualified horses on the rodeo grounds, no consecutive runs shall be allowed on the same horse, or horses, unless approval is granted by the arena director, arena boss and/or stock contractor.
Both Redundant and rendered completely ineffective by the loophole.
Tie-Down Roping Time Limit. There will be a 25-second elapsed time limit in the tie-down roping. A whistle indicating “no time” shall be blown by the timer at the end of a 25-second span. Roping a calf after the 25-second whistle has sounded shall be a Class III Offense for mistreatment of animals.
No Dragging of Calf. A neck rope must be used on the horse, and contestant must prevent horse from dragging calf.
Both redundant and ineffective. See rule #33.
No Jerk Down. Rodeo Committees have the option to request a special ground rule for “no jerk down” in the tie down roping.
This is not a rule, it's an option. First, if the PRCA were really concerned about humanity, there would be no calf roping at all. Beyond that, to make the prohibition of a life-threatening jerk down a mere option completely nullifies any claim of concern for the safety of animals.
Steer Wrestling Time Limit. There will be a 60-second elapsed time limit in the steer wrestling. A whistle indicating “no time” shall be blown by the timer at the end of the 60-second span.
Team Roping Time Limit. There will be a 30-second elapsed time limit in the team roping. A whistle indicating “no time” shall be blown by the timer at the end of the 30-second span.