May 20, 2008
KTVU.com, Fox Reno News


CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. -- For almost nine decades, cowboys and cowhands have gathered at the Rowell Ranch in Castro Valley to take part in the time honored tradition of the rodeo. But now animal rights activists are leveling stinging accusations of abuse against the rodeo, and they say they have video to prove it.

Two animal rights groups say horses used at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo last weekend were repeatedly shocked with a stun gun type device to get them to buck.

The activists posted video of last weekend's rodeo on Youtube. It shows a man in a blue shirt repeatedly leaning over the horses and using some kind of device on the horses to get them out the chute.

The activists claim it's a type of prod that gives the animal a jolt of electricity and is nothing more than animal abuse.

"They are breaking the law. They are torturing animals. They are using shocking devices which state law says clearly is illegal to use on these animals while they are in the chute," explains activist Alfredo Kuba of the Defend Animals Coalition.

The tape shows one instance where a man appears to strike the horse to try to get it out of the chute. The activists say they're posting the video to raise awareness about what they call animal cruelty in the rodeo business.

"They continue to abuse animals at will for the sake of entertainment and for the sake of money. It's a very greedy industry that only cares about making money," says Kuba.

Russ Fields is the arena director for the Rowell Ranch Rodeo. He says there were 78 horses used in last weekend's rodeo. He say didn't see any abuse during the event or on the tape. He says it's not illegal to use an electric prod once the gate is open. He says it's used sparingly and only for safety reasons.

"A cowboy can get hurt because when that gate opens and that horse stalls like that. You know that horse usually flips over backwards and mashes that cowboy into the bars in the back. It really hurts the cowboy and it could hurt the horse too," argued Fields. "I didn't see anything in [the tape]. These guys came in here and gave us a bomb threat ten years ago."

Fields says rodeo people depend on the animals, so it doesn't make sense to harm them.

"They get the best care. They buck eight seconds a day, maybe twice in a weekend, That's it. And the rest of the time they're all eating and out. I mean, it's quite a life to have to be a bucking horse, says Fields.

Still, a group called SHowing Animals Respect And Kindness" or SHARK says it will take its video to authorities with the hopes of getting criminal charges filed against those involved.

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