By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Mercy for Animals, a nonprofit group out of Dayton, spent seven months investigating a handful of rodeos around Ohio, including two in Greater Cincinnati. Members captured video footage of animals - mainly horses and cattle - being kicked, beaten, punched and shocked with electric prods during apparent rodeo events.
The group says the abuse of animals is endemic to rodeos and would like to see them outlawed as a form of entertainment, the same way dog- or cockfighting is illegal.
"A lot of this stuff goes on behind the scenes, and is standard practice on the rodeo circuit," said Jen Foley, Cincinnati regional coordinator for the organization. "We want to bring this to the public's attention. When they're buying a $5 ticket, they're supporting animal abuse."
Sheila Lehrke, who handles animal issues for the International Professional Rodeo Association, said sanctioned rodeo events take animal rights seriously. She said fines and disqualification from events are the consequences when abuse is found. Lehrke also said judges check animals for injuries before the events start, and livestock foremen - who often own the animals - watch for abuse.
"We don't like to see it happen, but you must remember we're dealing with bulls that weigh 2,000 pounds or more," Lehrke said. "There are ways to strike an animal that doesn't harm the animal at all. You do things to get their attention and get them to move. I doubt they're hurt very often."
Mercy for Animals investigators went to the Broken Horn Rodeo in Batavia in June, and to the Longhorn Rodeo at Cincinnati Gardens in February. The Longhorn Rodeo is sponsored by the rodeo association.
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