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Lawsuit Claims Poway Rodeo Uses Electric Prod On Horses

Image from a video shows a horse allegedly being illegally shocked while in a chute in this undated screengrab.
SHARK: Showing Animals Respect And Kindness
Image from a video shows a horse allegedly being illegally shocked while in a chute in this undated screengrab.

Two animal welfare groups filed a lawsuit against the Poway Rodeo, accusing workers at the annual event of illegally shocking tame horses for entertainment purposes, it was reported Thursday.

An Illinois nonprofit called Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, and the Animal Protection and Rescue League, a California nonprofit, filed the complaint in San Diego Superior Court Wednesday, the San Diego Union- Tribune reported.

The lawsuit accuses workers at the three-day event of violating municipal and state laws by electrically shocking tame horses while they are in chutes, or cages, just before they're released into the rodeo arena with a rider on top.


This causes the horses to buck wildly, "giving these tame, domesticated horses the appearance of being wild, `bucking broncos,"' according to the lawsuit.

KPBS went to Poway on Friday and talked with residents who saw the video and found it disturbing.

"I love animals so of course it was bothersome from that perspective," said Julia Abremski. "There doesn’t seem any good reason to do it - but the first thought that comes to mind is who would think to do this?"

Poway Rodeo chairman Murray Bankhead told the Union-Tribune that the rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the largest and oldest rodeo-sanctioning body in the world, and the Poway Rodeo fully complies with state and city laws.

California Penal Code requires a rodeo to "ensure that no electric prod or similar device is used on any animal once the animal is in the holding chute." Poway Municipal Code also prohibits the use of electric prods or shocking devices at rodeos and specifically forbids their use on animals being contained in chutes.


The next Poway Rodeo is scheduled for Sept. 27 and 28. The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order and an injunction to prevent the rodeo from shocking horses.

The Poway Valley Riders Association, the Salt River Rodeo Company and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association are also named in the suit, the newspaper reported.

As evidence, the lawsuit provided screenshots from a video taken at the rodeo event last year.

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube in January, shows a rodeo worker holding a pronged device near horses in chutes, seconds before they were released into the arena.

The lawsuit claims the device is called a "hot-shot," which emits 5,000 volts of electricity across two metal prongs.

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The professional cowboys association allows the use of prods and similar devices when an animal is in a chute, according to its website, but these devices may only be used when necessary and may only touch the animal on the hip or shoulder area.

Corrected: June 8, 2023 at 1:59 AM PDT
KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this story.