RENO, Nev. | A national animal rights group has released video footage that it says shows Reno Rodeo horses getting shocked just before they leave chutes for competition in violation of the rodeo's policy.
Representatives of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, say the video shows someone clandestinely giving electric shocks to horses as they're released at the rodeo that was staged from June 14-23.
"Literally, these animals have to be tortured to get them to perform, and that is animal cruelty pure and simple," said SHARK spokesman Stuart Chaifetz.
After watching the video, rodeo spokesman Steve Schroeder acknowledged to the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://bit.ly/MH3bab ) that bucking horses were shocked.
"It is true, that guy is shocking horses, and we're not OK with that," he said.
Cowboys were found to be "messing" with overhead cameras the rodeo installed after SHARK released similar video in 2011, Schroeder added, 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 no longer would be allowed at the rodeo. He said he expects the man and the contractor to face fines.
The man was identified as working for the livestock contractor Big Bend/Flying Five Rodeo Co. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach the company's owners were unsuccessful Sunday.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association allows electric shocks, but the Reno Rodeo doesn't want them, Schroeder said. The PRCA position on shocks — or "hot shots" — trumps the Reno Rodeo's policy when an animal won't leave a stall.
Even so, Schroeder said, that situation was seen in only two of SHARKS' video clips. In seven other clips, "the horses were not in a situation where a shock would've been called for," he said.
SHARK's video also showed two running calves that were roped around the neck and flipped over on their backs. One calf's rear leg was injured and the animal is seen hobbling out of the arena. The other calf's neck appeared to break as the contestant continues to tie its legs, and the animal was loaded into a pickup for removal.
Schroeder said the two injuries in calf-roping competition were unfortunate incidents that sometimes happen at rodeos.
SHARK maintains the video clips show "jerk downs," which the PRCA has prohibited for the 2012 season. A jerk down occurs "if a contestant jerks a calf over backwards in tie-down roping," according to PRCA's Website.
Schroeder said the Reno Rodeo wants better enforcement with disqualifications and fines large enough to dissuade jerk downs in serious cases.
"We want the public to know it's not acceptable. It's a sport but we're not here to hurt the animals," he told the Gazette-Journal.