Kane rodeo uninterrupted; activist arrested

Eavesdropping charge: Geneva animal rights advocate arrested for recording argument with police

Friday, July 23, 1999

The Beacon News (Aurora, IL)

By Joel Patenaude

St. Charles – Steve Hindi could not stop the rodeo at the Kane County Fair, nor could he convince authorities to arrest the event's promoter on animal cruelty charges.

The Geneva-based animal rights activist did, however, find himself under arrest on a felony charge of eavesdropping after he admittedly recorded his arguments with two St. Charles police officers as the rodeo proceeded Saturday.

"I've seen this time and time again," Hindi said, having spent the night in jail, out on bond until a July 30 court hearing.

"All we asked the police to do was their job and stop what was happening, but nobody is interested in going after the animal abusers. They just want to stop and arrest me."

Donna Hertel, Hindi's girlfriend, attended the first of two rodeo performances that day and complained to security officers about the inhumane treatment of livestock she said she witnessed and photographed.

By the evening performance, Hertel returned with Hindi and the developed pictures she had taken. The photographs show bulls being prodded in the chute with hand-held shocking devices and calves either having their tails pulled or dragged over the gates.

Hindi showed Hertel's photographs to The Beacon News Wednesday after driving two five-foot-long sharks in tanks from a Skokie pet shot to O'Hare International Airport. Hindi said the sharks, who had outgrown their enclosures, were flown to and released in a sanctuary in the Florida Keys, at the shop's request.

Hindi is the founder and head of SHARK – Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.

At the rodeo Saturday afternoon, an officer agreed to take Hertel's initial complaint and copies of her photographs. Because Hertel insisted upon immediate action, the officer put her on the telephone with Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Jim Guagliardo.

"Guagliardo informed her that, absent continuing pain or injury (to the rodeo livestock), there were no grounds for charges," a St. Charles police report states.

Sgt. Brad Griffin, who took the complaint of abuse, said he informed Hertel that the use of shocking devices does violate the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules but not state law. Cattle prods routinely are used on farms and by veterinarians to move cattle from place to place.

Upon further investigation, Griffin determined that Big Hat rodeo, the Lebanon, Mo.-based company that put on the Kane County Fair shows, is affiliated with the International Professional Rodeo Association. Unlike the PRCA, the IPRA's rules do not disallow the use of shocking devices.

Hindi, however, disagrees with local authorities who insist animal abuse is a matter of interpretation. He said the Kendall, DuPage, Lake and other counties routinely run afoul of the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.

Among the law's prohibited acts in using animals for entertainment is "a fight between such animal and any other animal or human."

Pig and bear wrestling is outlawed, but calf wrestling – an event which includes lassoing the neck, lifting and dropping the animal on its side before tying its legs together – is tolerated at rodeos, Hindi said.

"There's no such thing as a humane rodeo," he added.

Hindi's arrest came after he and Hertel asked police why flash photography was allowed by many rodeo spectators although several signs at the entrances indicated cameras were prohibited.

At the rodeo last year, Hindi asked and was denied use of a video camera to document what he perceived to be animal abuse.

Hindi and Hertel became argumentative with Officer Lori York, according to her police report. Hindi then produced an audio cassette recorder and said he had just recorded their conversation.

Sgt. Brad Griffin arrived a short time later, at Hindi's request. Griffin reported asked Hindi to turn off the tape recorder before he would continue their conversation.

"Hindi reluctantly agreed," York's report states.

Guagliardo, who declined to authorize charges against rodeo officials, did OK a Class 4 felony charge of eavesdropping against Hindi.

To use a device to hear or record a conversation without the consent of all parties is illegal under state law.

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