By Karen Holzmeister
Inside Bay Area.com/The Daily Review

Learn more and see video at RowellRodeoCruelty.com

CASTRO VALLEY — A cowboy used a handheld electric prod to jump-start bucking broncs after the horses were slow to exit chutes during May's Rowell Ranch Rodeo, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, or HARD, says.

Since prodding or electric devices have been banned at the district-owned Rowell Ranch Rodeo Park since 2000, HARD wants to impose a stiff penalty on the rodeo's animal supplier.

A video of the May 18 competition, provided by an animal rights organization, "clearly shows" horses being shocked out of the chute "a number of times," said Larry Lepore, HARD superintendent of parks.

The man using the prod has been identified as an employee of Marysville-based Flying U Rodeo Co., which supplies rodeo animals, Lepore said. But the Rowell Ranch Rodeo Association, which contracts with Flying U and has operated the rodeo for nearly half of its 88-year history, "will not tell me who it is, or does not want to tell me who it is," Lepore said.

So last week, Lepore said, he recommended that Flying U be banned for one year from all events at the rodeo arena on Dublin Canyon Road. The ban would include the association's May 2009 rodeo.

Lepore said he made his recommendation in writing to the association, which can appeal the decision to HARD directors.

Neither Larry Leatham of Sonora, who organizes the rodeo for the association, nor Cotton Rosser, who heads the Flying U operation, could be reached for comment Friday.

Flying U provides and transports hundreds of bulls, horses, steers and calves yearly to nearly four dozen California and Nevada rodeos, and other Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events.

The video was taken in the stands May 18 by an investigator from Illinois-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK. The nonprofit contacted the district May 20, and the video was supplied the next day. Lepore said he spent 21/2 weeks investigating the SHARK information before issuing his recommendation.

He talked with association members, as well as HARD employees, during the rodeo. He did not speak with Flying U representatives, he said.

Lepore suggests no monetary fine for either the association or Flying U.

Flying U is not listed as the stock supplier for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the only touring black rodeo in the United States, scheduled for July 12-13.

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