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January 17, 2019


Within the United States there are thousands of humane organizations. Some are humane societies/SPCAs that take care of stray and abandoned animals - mainly dogs and cats - and try to find new homes for them. Then there are advocacy organizations who work on a wide range of issues involving animals.

Rodeos occur in close proximity to virtually all of these thousands of organization. In rodeos, animals are taunted and tormented, jerked around, tripped and body slammed. They may be electrically shocked to cause a response, to make them appear to be wild. Many animals are injured or killed.

This horse, Duke, died soon after being electro-shocked at the Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove, NJ

My question is, why are these humane organizations not taking a strong stand, at least with rodeos that occur close to them? For the past 25 years, SHARK investigators have exposed cruelty at hundreds of rodeos across the country and into Canada. Our thousands of hours of documentation leave absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to the degree of abuse these animals endure.

This is not to suggest that all humane organizations pursue rodeo abuse across the continent as we do, but when this abuse happens in their own back yard, humane organizations should deal with it.

I realize that there are some very small groups out there trying to help stray and abandoned animals. Some of the groups have just a small handful of people, and they may be spending their own money to try to help strays. Those folks obviously have their hands full. But then there are the groups who have millions of dollars, plenty of employees and even more volunteers. These organizations should be dealing with rodeo abuse, and they are not.

Last September, a SHARK investigator documented abuse at the Poway Rodeo in Poway, California. This included the use of electric shock to make tame, domesticated animals appear to be wild.

A horse at the Poway Rodeo, immediately after being shocked

The use of the electric prod in rodeos is condemned by the prod manufacturer, Miller Manufacturing. Miller spokespeople have stated for decades that the prod should not be used in rodeos, and should never, under any circumstance be used on horses. Horses are the main victims of the electric prod in rodeos.

This is a partial response from the San Diego Humane Society:

“…the use of an electric hand-held prod is not illegal. This is a common tool in the livestock trade as long as the device is not used punitively or inhumanely.”

This is unacceptable. First, rodeo is not the livestock trade - rodeo is perverse entertainment. The prod manufacturer has stated that the prod should not be used in rodeos, and never on horses. That means that the very use of the prod at a rodeo is inhumane, and it especially the case when it is used on horses.

The San Diego Humane Society is not one of the small, poor organizations I mentioned earlier.  According to its website:

“San Diego Humane Society was organized on March 10, … and is the oldest and largest humane society in San Diego County.”

The organization brought in almost $29,000,000 in 2017, the last reported year. Its executives earn six-figure salaries. This is an organization that has the people and resources to deal with rodeos that come to the area.

What I find particularly telling is that humane organizations in Australia and New Zealand are making good progress on rodeos. The main reason for this is that they are actually trying, whereas US humane organizations are nowhere to be found. This is disgusting, but these groups seem to feel no shame whatsoever.

In the case of the SPCA for Monterey County, it partners with the California Rodeo in Salinas - the largest rodeo in the state. This is a particularly disturbing case. The Monterey County SPCA’s website takes a hard line against rodeo, but in reality, the SPCA refuses to speak out when SHARK exposed that the rodeo was under reporting animal injuries.

A steer who was killed at the Salinas rodeo

Documents SHARK received as part of a lawsuit against the California Rodeo in Salinas showed that the rodeo could depend on the SPCA to give it cover when we exposed abuses. No matter how much we expose the rodeo, the SPCA says not a thing.

The SPCA for Monterey County plays both sides of the fence - claiming it opposes rodeos to those who care about animals, while partnering with the rodeo to help it avoid negative attention. The leadership of the SPCA for Monterey County should in my opinion be run out of the humane community on a rail.

The cruelty of rodeos should not go on. If the humane community would take a collective stand, and deal with issues as they arise locally, major change could happen in a short period of time. So long as humane organizations are too timid, cowardly or conniving to take appropriate action, rodeo animal abuse will continue.

The following are a few things that Humane Societies and SPCAs need to do:

• Have their investigators go undercover at local rodeos to stop the cruelty as it occurs, and then take that to the media.

• Include rodeos when giving presentations about animal cruelty.

• Help pass legislation banning rodeos.

Going forward, SHARK will continue to investigate and expose rodeos across the continent. However, from now on we will be in touch with humane organizations in the proximity of those rodeos, and those orgs that refuse to do anything about the egregious cruelty in their own backyard are going to be outed, because so long as the humane community generally ignores this abuse, the rodeo cruelty will continue.

This horse was brutalized and bloodied at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo

SHARK’s efforts against the rodeo industry, which we refer to as the rodeo mafia, will continue, and we have made progress on the issue. Fewer rodeos are shocking now than in years past. Jerk downs, a roping technique that can injure or kill a calf, is on the way out, thanks to our years of exposure. Steer busters are under more pressure than ever. 

In spite of the progress, there is still a very long ways to go. SHARK investigators filmed numerous horses and other animals killed in 2018.

For years I have criticized the American humane community, and this will not stop anytime soon. The so-called humane movement has never had more money flowing in, and yet egregious abuse right under its collective nose is ignored. This is similar to the Pennsylvania humane community ignoring live pigeon shoots, often just a few miles from humane society headquarters.

These people should hang their heads in shame, but apparently that would interfere with money counting. Criticizing these people have made me personally, and to a degree SHARK, pariahs, but I am at the point that being an outcast from a clique that is lazy, incompetent, wasteful and deceitful, is in fact a badge of honor.

I hope you will join SHARK in dealing with the abuse of rodeos, and insist that humane organizations finally make the idiotic and deadly cruelty stop.


Long time veterinarian and rodeo expert Dr. Peggy Larson was interviewed on MPR in New Zealand. Please listen to the interview HERE.





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