Activist aims to jolt with rodeo video

By Ann Schrader
The Denver Post

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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.

The video was taped by activist Steve Hindi at Tuesday's two rodeo performances in Denver and Wednesday's afternoon rodeo and posted to the website YouTube.com Thursday evening.

National Western officials say what's seen in the video may merely be a small device used to encourage horses if they stall in the chute. Such devices are allowed under Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules.

The video shows men leaning over the chute and applying the device to the horse's rear or neck. Each time, the horse leaps as though shocked, then bolts out of the chute with the cowboy aboard.

In one instance, the man who presses the device to the horse appears to injure himself, shaking his hand repeatedly as he hands the device to another man, who then slips it into his pocket.

"This is in violation of a city ordinance" that prohibits cruelty to animals, said Hindi, who is the founder of SHARK — Showing Animals Respect & Kindness.

Hindi said he would turn over a DVD video of the alleged incident to Denver police today. He is requesting a criminal investigation. Police could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Kati Anderson of the National Western issued a statement Thursday evening saying that the device apparently seen in the video is used to protect horses from injury.

"The National Western has been made aware of allegations by animal extremists regarding the methods used to move livestock during the rodeo. PRCA rules allow for the use of a livestock prod in order to allow for the safe exit of horses that may have the tendency to stall in the chutes," Anderson said in the statement.

"The livestock prod is powered by nine-volt batteries and allows for harmless encouragement of the horse to leave the chute. It does not make a horse buck, nor does it affect the competition once the horse and competitor have safely exited the bucking chute."

Hindi contended that the device is likely a hand-held "Hot-Shot Power- Mite" that, while it runs on two nine-volt batteries, is capable of delivering 4,500 volts on contact.

And the video indicates that whatever the device, it definitely makes the horses buck.

The $40 device is used regularly in "sorting" cattle, but Hindi said the manufacturer warns that it should not be used on horses. No such warning appears on the website for Miller Manufacturing, and no one at the company's office in Minnesota could be reached after hours to verify Hindi's claim.

Hindi's website, however, quotes the Miller Manufacturing marketing director, Jim Bartel, as saying the device is not to be used at rodeos.

"The Hot-Shot Power-Mite livestock prod is designed, manufactured, and marketed for use to aid in the movement of cattle and hogs," Bartel said, according to Hindi. "Hot-Shot does not condone the use of the Power-Mite or any Hot-Shot electric prod for use on horses, including horses in a rodeo environment."

Bartel could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Rodeo stock at the National Western is provided and handled by contractor Cervi Championship Rodeo and 11 subcontractors. The Cervi organization could not be reached for comment.

Hindi said this is the first time he has taped the National Western Rodeo, although he said he also has videotaped electric shock being used at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and the rodeo at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

In Las Vegas, Hindi obtained video of an official from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association using a device in the same way one was used in Denver. At the time, the National Finals Rodeo put out a Dec. 14 statement similar to the one issued by Anderson.

Cindy Schonholtz, a spokeswoman for the PRCA, had not seen the National Western video Thursday night but said the prods are allowed under the organization's rules.

"They encourage the horses to move, but it doesn't hurt them," she said.

Schonholtz said Hindi and his group have made other such allegations in the past few years.

In both 2006 and 2007, SHARK took videos at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo that they said showed use of prods in violations of the PRCA's guidelines. According to a story in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, one subcontractor was fined by the PRCA after the 2006 rodeo.

SHARK, which is based in Geneva, Ill., says it is dedicated to ending animal abuse and suffering.

"We don't do a lot of protesting," Hindi said. "Our forte is video. Anybody can run around with signs, but video footage provides proof."

According to its website, SHARK has posted more than 40 rodeo videos via YouTube. SHARK said that those videos were briefly pulled by YouTube in December because of copyright claims by the PRCA but were restored later that month.

Like PETA, SHARK has been reported to favor a ban on all rodeos. The ASPCA and the American Humane Association don't oppose all rodeos, but according to their websites they oppose any procedures that hurt the animals.

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