Denver animal control is asked to look into the devices used on broncs, shown in an activist's rodeo video.
By Ann Schrader
The Denver Post
In a video posted on YouTube.com by SHARK, an anti-animal-abuse group, men use what appear to be hand-held electrical devices to prod rodeo horses at the National Western Stock Show. (SHARK.com )Allegations that several saddle broncs performing last week in the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo were prodded by small hand-held electric devices are being investigated.
An animal cruelty complaint was filed Friday with the Denver Animal Care & Control division by the group SHARK — Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.
"Our goal is not to knock out rodeos," said Steve Hindi, president of the Illinois-based group. "We just want them to follow their own rules and stop certain practices."
Video shot by Hindi at three National Western rodeos shows handlers leaning into the bronco chutes and touching the horses' necks or hips with the cellphone-sized devices.
The horses then bolted and bucked out into the arena and the handlers pocketed the devices. The National Western's animal care and use committee also is looking into contentions that "hot shots" were used.
"We're not taking this lightly," said National Western spokeswoman Kati Anderson.
In a statement released Thursday, Anderson said the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association allows the use of livestock prods to get an animal to move safely.
The PRCA rules state: "Standard electric prods may be used only when necessary and may only touch the animal on the hip or shoulder area," and "The use of prods and similar devices is prohibited in the riding events unless an animal is stalled in the chute."
"The livestock prod is powered by nine-volt batteries and allows for harmless encouragement of the horse to leave the chute," the statement said.
PRCA spokeswoman Cindy Schonholtz said a prod is used only when the judge, the animal's owner and the contestant agree.
There are no specifications in the PRCA rules about the types of prods. Schonholtz said the judges, who receive training as part of their PRCA certification, must approve the device. She did not know what type of prod may have been used.
Hindi said the device resembles the Hot-Shot Power-Mite, which runs on two nine-volt batteries and delivers a 4,500-volt charge.
An official with Miller Manufacturing, which makes the Hot-Shot Power-Mite, said Friday that it was designed to move cattle and hogs.
"We don't condone the use of this on horses and not in rodeos," said Miller marketing director Amy Scheel.
The Hot-Shot Power-Mite produces a shock that "feels like a slight tingle, a little jolt," Scheel said.
Temple Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University, said the "hot shot" sensation for horses would be like getting shocked on an electric fence.
"It doesn't burn them. There is no damage to the hide of the horse," Grandin said.
Grandin, a well-known animal behavior expert, watched the SHARK video posted on YouTube.com. She confirmed the prods were being used at the National Western rodeo.
"I'm surprised they were doing it," Grandin said. "They might need to be used when you're first training them."