Model Laws

Regulation of Animal Cruetly During Rodeo Events


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

To prohibit inhumane rodeo events. The rodeo industry exists as a form of entertainment for the public. However, many of the events in rodeos involve inflicting significant amounts of pain on the animals involved. Rodeo activities that injure animals include calf roping, painful cinching, electric prodding, and spurring. These events and devices are stressful and can be abusive, cruel, and cause the animals great suffering and even death. Such animal cruelty is not an appropriate educational forum or "family fun" activity for children.


Sec. 2. Definitions

  • "Calf roping": capturing a calf with a lasso and binding its feet
  • "Flank or bucking straps": strap or rope which is tightly cinched around the abdomen or genitals of a horse or bull causing the animal to buck
  • "Electric prods": handheld device commonly used to make cattle or other livestock move by striking or poking them through a high voltage, low current electric shock
  • "Sharpened or fixed spurs": a sharp prod fixed to a rider's heel to make animals buck violently
  • "Rodeo": a public exhibition in which skills such as riding broncos or roping calves are displayed


Sec. 3. Regulation

(a) The roping of calves for amusement or entertainment purposes in the city/town/municipality is prohibited.


(b) The use of flank or bucking straps on horses, bulls, cattle, and other livestock for amusement or entertainment purposes in the city/town/municipality is prohibited.


(c) The use of electric prods on horses, bulls, cattle and other livestock for amusement or entertainment purposes in the city/town/municipality is prohibited.


(d) The use of sharpened or fixed spurs on horses, bulls, cattle, and other livestock for amusement or entertainment purposes in the city/town/municipality is prohibited.


Sec. 4. Penalties

(a) Each violation of this act is a separate charge of misdemeanor.


(b) Any person who violates this act may be punished by imprisonment up to one year, a fine, or both.


(c) A rodeo found to be in violation of these provisions will have its permit to travel the circuit revoked and will be subject to fines of up to $10,000.



Additional Commentary

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is the world's largest rodeo association. According to the PRCA, they have more than 60 rules dealing with the care and treatment of rodeo animals. The PRCA further states that anyone who violates these rules can be disqualified and fined. As animal welfare organizations relate, however, the fines are usually minimal, and therefore not severe enough to deter abusive treatment of the animals. In addition, law enforcement and rodeo judges are reluctant to interfere during the events, leaving it to private individuals to report complaints without the necessary legal proof.


Despite this, the PRCA claims that animal welfare is a major initiative of the association. To this effect, the PRCA has published a booklet entitled Animal Welfare, which details the humane methods of treating animals promulgated by the organization. However, listed in this publication as acceptably "humane" are the very devices that have been outlawed in rodeos for their cruelty in several cities and states across the country. Examples of inhumane devices that the PRCA claim to be acceptably humane are the electric prod, flank strap, and spurs. As described below, these instruments have been found by veterinarians to inflict significant amounts of pain on the animals.


Due to the violent nature of rodeo events, injury and death to the participants—both human and nonhuman animals—are not uncommon. Among the most inhumane aspects of rodeo events include the use of electric prods which cause intense pain to cows and horses, flank or bucking straps which wound and burn the skin, and the use of spurs to make the animals buck more violently. In addition, bucking often causes horses to break their backs and legs, which inevitably means death. But perhaps rodeo's most recognized inhumane event, an event that even many seasoned cowboys would like to see eliminated, is calf roping. Calf roping involves putting a lasso around a calf's neck and then throwing it to the ground by the neck. This frequently leads to neck damage or death.


In 1995 five animals died at the California Rodeo in Salinas. Despite the presence of veterinarians, a roping calf with a broken back was not euthanized but simply loaded into a truck headed for slaughter, terrified and in pain. No painkillers were given because, according to one veterinarian present, "that ruins the meat."


On February 4, 2000, at a rodeo in San Antonio, Texas, a horse snapped his spine during a bare-back bronco riding event. The paralyzed horse managed to drag himself across the stadium before collapsing. He was subsequently euthanized. The rodeo said that this incident, as well as fractured legs on a few calves, was a "freak accident."


Rodeos often include events for children as well. One popular event is mutton busting—seeing how long a child can ride a sheep. Calf roping also occurs at the junior level, but according to certain rodeos the child lets go of the rope after getting it around the calf's neck so the calf remains unharmed though this is often not the case. Other events include chasing calves and pulling ribbons from their tails; goat tying, which involves riding a horse to where a goat is tied and then dismounting, catching and tying the goat up; barrel racing; bareback riding and steer wrestling.


Laws banning some rodeo events do exist. The city council of Pasadena, California, banned rodeos completely, as has the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Rhode Island outlawed tie-down calf roping in 1989. In addition, several cities including Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Leestown, Virginia, have placed harsh restrictions on the use of flank straps, electric prods, and spurs, which effectively ban rodeos. Ohio has also banned the use of flank straps. Rhode Island and California have laws requiring the presence of veterinarians at rodeos as well.


The purpose of rodeos is to entertain audiences. Eliminating inhumane events at rodeos will not alter the entertainment level. It will simply provide the animals participating with better lives.



Animal Protection Institute


Animal Welfare and the Rodeo


Buck the Rodeo


Cedaredge Little Britches Rodeo


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association


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