Group: Electric prods used on horses at Nevada rodeo

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Animal rights activists say additional videotape shot at the Reno Rodeo shows the alleged abuse of bucking broncos was more extensive than originally thought.

Leaders of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, publicized videotape last week they say showed an unknown person secretly giving electric shocks to horses just before they left chutes for competition last month in violation of the rodeo's policy.

Additional undercover footage released at a news conference Friday in Reno shows a total of four men were involved in the animal shocking, and some horses were shocked by two of them at once, said Steve Hindi, president of the Illinois-based group.

One man used a 10,000-volt electric prod that is banned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, he maintained, while the three others used a 5,000-volt prod that the PRCA only allows on horses that stall in chutes.

SHARK claims rodeo organizers, stock contractors, riders and judges were aware of the use of electric prods and covered it up. The prods were used to rig the competition and help certain cowboys, it further contends.

"Anyone want to give it a shot?" Hindi asked as visible sparks emerged from two prods he displayed. "It hurts. It is painful. And they say horses are more sensitive to electricity than people ... We're against animals being put at risk for entertainment."

The Reno Rodeo Association issued a statement Friday saying it was aware of SHARK's video and may comment later "if and when there is a need to comment on allegations made."

The association stressed that it makes the health and welfare of its animals a priority, and it works with the rodeo's official veterinarian to monitor the conditions of livestock.

"We understand that there are groups and individuals who do not believe we have the right to interact with animals in sports such as rodeo, but we believe that we can with proper care and handling of those animals," the statement says.

After watching the earlier video, rodeo spokesman Steve Schroeder acknowledged that bucking horses were shocked by a person in violation of rodeo rules.

He also said cowboys were found to be "messing" with overhead cameras the rodeo installed after SHARK released similar video in 2011, and the man who administered the shocks worked "really hard to stay out of camera view."

Schroeder wouldn't identify the man but said he longer would be allowed at the rodeo. He said he expects the man and the livestock subcontractor to face fines.

The PRCA is reviewing the earlier video and allegations, spokeswoman Cindy Schonholtz said Friday, but it has not received the latest video.

The association has 60 rules that govern the care of animals at rodeos, and violators are subject to penalties ranging from fines to suspension and expulsion. Judges at PRCA-sanctioned rodeos submit any rule violations to the association.

"At the Reno rodeo, the judges felt that the use of the prod they observed was within the rules outlined for chute stalling or known chute-stalling horses in order to facilitate safe exit from the chutes," Schonholtz told The Associated Press.

The allowed hand-held prods have a similar sensation to an electric livestock fence, she said, and do not make a horse buck or affect the competition once the horse and competitor have exited the chute.

SHARK also released video showing two running calves that were roped around the neck and flipped over on their backs at the Reno Rodeo. One calf's rear leg was seriously injured, while the other's neck appeared to break as the cowboy tied its legs.

Hindi said the injuries resulted from "jerk downs," a practice the PRCA has banned. A jerk down occurs "if a contestant jerks a calf over backward in tie-down roping," according to the PRCA.

"(The rule) was in place at the Reno Rodeo and violations were reported to the PRCA office," Schonholtz said. "Those who violated that rule will be receiving penalties as outlined in the policy."

Hindi thinks the four men using the electric prods were employed by stock contractors, but he was unsure of their names or employers.

The use of the prods is difficult to see in the video because the cowboys wore gloves and long-sleeve shirts to hide them, Hindi said.