The New Jersey SPCA is investigating allegations of animal cruelty after a rodeo horse dropped dead Saturday.
The body of the rodeo horse is removed from the arena after he dies in front of the live audience.
A SPCA agent visited Grant Harris, the owner of the Cowntown Rodeo on Tuesday. “I won’t tolerate abuse,” said Harris calmly. He says his crew knows not to use the cattle prods on the horses once they are in the chute. The electric shock devices are found around the grounds in case of an emergency.
Rodeos are a way of life for many and replicate the old-time western lifestyle, but rules are supposed to help ensure the well being of the animals in the sport. Now, some are questioning if the rules are being enforced after a bucking bronc died within minutes of allegedly being shocked with a cattle prod at the rodeo.
Cowtown is the oldest weekly rodeo in the country and is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA.) The organization states it has 60 rules to protect animals’ welfare including that “standard electric prods may be used only when necessary and may only touch the animal on the hip or shoulder area.”
SHARK Investigator Stuart Chaifetz took video of the incident and says a number of horses were shocked, including the one that died. The horse named Duke exited the chute and within 30 seconds he was on the ground dying in front of the live audience.
So what was in the cowboy’s hand? Harris says he isn’t sure. He admits it does look like a Hot-Shot in the video released by SHARK, but on TMZ, without the slow-motion and enlarged photo, he says it looks like a shoot hook used to grab the cinch.
Harris says he believes the horse was not shocked. Dr. Robert Stevens, the on-site veterinarian, attributed the death to a ruptured aortic aneurysm. Harris says a necropsy was not performed.
Harris says he thinks he knows which crew member is seen in the video, although it is grainy. He will question the individual Wednesday.
SHARK revealed footage in 2011 and 2012 showing horses being shocked before leaving the chutes in Reno, Nevada. The man allegedly responsible for shocking the animals was identified as working for the livestock contractor Big Bend / Flying Five Rodeo Co, according to a report by The Associated Press.
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