Group claims animals abused during rodeo

January 19, 2008
By Lindsay Hocker, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Quad-Cities Dispatch

MOLINE -- An animal rights group is accusing a stock contractor for a rodeo coming later this month to the i wireless Center of abusing animals.

Members of Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, claim they shot video of animals performing in The World's Toughest Bulls and Broncs rodeo on Jan. 11 at the Peoria Civic Center being shocked.

In the video, a man is shown pressing a black device against several animals, which then jump or flinch. SHARK president Steve Hindi identified the man as David Morehead, owner of rodeo stock contractor Three Hills Rodeo Inc.

SHARK members claim they have footage dating as far back as 2000 of Mr. Morehead shocking rodeo animals.

In a statement, The World's Toughest Rodeo said the "health and welfare of the rodeo livestock that participate in World's Toughest Rodeo events is a high priority," and that if they receive a copy of the video they will review it to see if their livestock handling policies were followed.

A link to the video was sent to the company by The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. A company spokesperson declined further comment.

An e-mail sent to Three Hills Rodeo Inc. and a telephone message left Friday morning were not answered.

The rodeo is scheduled to be at the i wireless Center Jan. 25-26. The arena's director, Scott Mullen, said an event promoter told him the device shown is a battery-powered cattle prod, used for years in rodeos.

The use of such devices is legal in Illinois, as long as they are not used in such a manner as to be cruel or excessively harmful to an animal. State law bans beating, cruelly treating, tormenting, starving, overworking or otherwise abusing animals.

Mr. Hindi said he recognized the device in the video as a Hot Shot Power-Mite electrical prod, which administers 5,000 to 6,000 volts. In contrast, stun guns used by police and individuals for self-defense against other humans can produce jolts of as much as 500,000 volts.

The manufacturer describes the Power-Mite as a compact model typically used by dairy farmers, vets, and hog or cattle producers to move animals while doing close-in work. According to SHARK, the manufacturer recommends that the device not be used in rodeos or on horses.

Mr. Hindi said rodeos use such devices, as well as buck straps and spurs, to make animals buck or run.

"When you've got an animal that can't move, the only recourse they have is to act exactly how the rodeo people want -- wild," he said. "I have used the Hot Shot on myself. ... It feels like you're being stabbed."

Dr. Richard Rock of Oakwood Veterinary Services in Colona said most rodeo animals he's seen are well taken care of. He said using an electric prod on an animal would cause an unpleasant, but likely brief, sensation and no permanent damage.

Rock Island County Animal Care & Control Shelter director Richard Glessner said he does not personally support rodeos, and does not condone or support the activities he saw on a copy of the video he viewed.

It would be up to local authorities to determine if any animals at the i wireless Center rodeo are being mistreated and whether criminal charges were warranted.

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