By: Staff  Date: 01/15/2012 Category: | Farm and Ranch Almanac |

There may be a bit of frustration in the anti-rodeo-animal-rights community in Connecticut. Efforts to ban rodeo legislatively didn't pan out this year, and the closer look that government regulators took at rodeo because of the legislative attempt resulted in documentation that shows rodeo's use of animals in a most positive way.

Andy and Jeri Camputaro's Double R Championship Rodeo became the catalyst for animal rights activists when a steer was injured in competition at their Guilford, Connecticut, rodeo in 1998 and died as a result of the injury. Ensuing actions included an attempt to ban rodeo in the city of Guilford, causing an equine abuse investigator to attend Camputaro's next rodeo in nearby Bethlehem, production of an anti-rodeo video aired on the public local access TV station, promoting and conducting an anti-rodeo-animal-rights rally prior to the Glastonbury, Connecticut, rodeo, staging a minor demonstration at the event, and enlisting the aid of the state legislator from Guilford in introducing state legislation to regulate rodeo in 1999.

They did not get very much bang for their buck. The city of Guilford declined to introduce an ordinance, the equine abuse investigator said the rodeo animals were in good condition and not misused, and the rally was sparsely attended. While the state legislator attempted to address concerns of her animal rights constituents, she did not share their conviction that rodeo should be banned. The bill concerning rodeo went through a number of revisions, not 100 percent pleasing anyone. When it got to the point that rodeo could have lived with it, it was too watered down to interest animal rights objectives, and people stopped pushing for it to be passed.

One of the earlier versions of the bill would have required the commissioner of agriculture to set standards for rodeo. Along with rodeo people, the Department of Agriculture opposed the bill. The assistant commissioner reasoned that the department could already inspect any animal suspected of mistreatment. In July of this year, the deputy commissioner of agriculture and the state animal control officer showed up at the Bethlehem rodeo. Their experience was documented to members of the legislature by a letter from Deputy Bruce Gresczyk and an investigation report completed by Officer Ray Connors.

Gresczyk related that he and Connors met with Andy Camputaro, the rodeo operator, and David Wilson of the Rotary Club at the Bethlehem fairgrounds rodeo. "We explained why we were there and found both men to be very cooperative. We were granted unlimited access to the records, employees and animals. Officer Connors and I were present before, during, and after all rodeo performances. All animals were in excellent condition and appeared to be well fed, watered and cared for. There was no evidence of abuse by contestants or employees of the Double R Rodeo. There were no cattle prods, whips or other devices that would be considered cruel."

Officer Connors reported that he had been requested by Dr. Bruce Sherman, Director of the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection for the Department of Agriculture, to "monitor for unnecessary use of a force with the animals in the gates including tail twisting and the use of livestock shock prods. Camputaro stated that the only thing that they use to move the animals is a plastic livestock stick and have even stopped using wooden livestock canes to move the animals. Camputaro showed us the water tanks for the livestock along with a shade tarp for the younger livestock. Camputaro stated that local veterinarians were on the grounds during all shows in case of emergencies involving the animals. All animals appeared in good physical condition. Camputaro showed us the steers which were outfitted with protective guards on their polls to prevent any injuries from ropes during the competition."

Connors did a summary report on each of the four performances which included the name of each attending veterinarian. The first three shows were without incident, and he noted that within 15 minutes of the end of the show all animals were let into a large arena and fed, and the water tanks were topped off. He reported that the veterinarian conducted a visual inspection of all animals prior to the start of the 1 p.m. show on Saturday because of extreme heat conditions, and none of the animals showed signs of heat stress. Connors noted a steer that limped towards the gate in the team roping competition at the final performance. He had the handler hold the animal in a pen for examination by the vet, who determined the leg of the steer to be OK.

These reports show what we in rodeo say is true about rodeo - that the animals are fit, that they are taken care of properly, and that injuries are few. This official documentation is supportive and should be useful in our efforts to show that as a regular practice, outside inspection is unnecessary and would constitute a waste of taxpayer money.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Sheila Lehrke |
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