Rodeo would not be the sport that it is today without the incredible animal athletes that keep the sport thriving. In order for the sport of rodeo to survive, rodeo stars and athletes must continually nurture the relationship that they have with the animals that created the reason for the sport. The largest sanctioning organization of rodeo, The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), has several ways that they ensure the humane treatment of their animals including:
- A livestock welfare committee
- More than 60 rules governing livestock welfare
- Conducts regular livestock welfare surveys
- Networks with other organizations to about best livestock practices and policies
- Educates the public and officials about the care provided to rodeo livestock
- Recognizes veterinarian’s contribution to the welfare of rodeo livestock (Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year)
For more information on that the PRCA does for their livestock reference the ProRodeo Livestock booklet provided by the PRCA.
The Director of the Industry Outreach Department that handles all livestock issues is Cindy Schonholtz. Cindy has been with the PRCA for 17 years and is a former Executive Director of the Miss Rodeo California Pageant and Board Member for Miss Rodeo America, Inc and The Miss Rodeo America Scholarship Foundation. She and her team are instrumental in ensuring the future of rodeo in regards to livestock related legislative issues, furthering rodeos reach in communities through camps and other programs, as well as promoting and monitoring the proper care and handling of rodeo livestock at PRCA sanctioned rodeos. We had the chance to interview Cindy about issues in the world of rodeo and livestock welfare. A huge thank you to her for taking the time to speak with us and for all that she does for the sport.
MRAI: What does the PRCA feel is the biggest threat to rodeo right now regarding animal welfare?
“It is important to look at livestock welfare as a continuing and ever evolving situation. The PRCA has an award-winning program to provide for the proper care and handling of livestock at PRCA rodeos. Legislative issues offer the biggest challenge to the sport of rodeo and we must always be vigilant to insure that any legislative proposal that would negatively affect PRCA rodeos or members is addressed and opposed vigorously.”
MRAI: What do you think is the biggest misconception, about rodeo, from the general population?
“It is very easy for today’s urbanized society to have so many misconceptions regarding livestock since they are so removed from rural America and understanding livestock. The distinction between livestock and pets is an important one for the PRCA to teach the general public and our fans so they are better able to understand the treatment and care of livestock at PRCA sanctioned events.”
MRAI: What is your biggest advice for queens and rodeo participants when dealing with the media?
“It is very important for rodeo royalty and contestants to understand that they have an opportunity to tell their story and rodeos story, but they need to be prepared and only participate in media interviewed if they are prepared and have done their homework. Media training on the issues to have standard answers to general questions about the care and handling of rodeo livestock is important but it is important if the media take the line of questioning farther past the queen or contestants personal experience they refer the reporter to the PRCA office for further information.”
MRAI: In the government, what are the bills right now that are threatening animal welfare and rodeo?
“The PRCA monitors local, state and federal legislative bodies to find legislation that we can support or that we need to oppose. The PRCA opposes legislation that would directly negatively affect our membership or sanctioned events. We are currently opposing bills in the U.S. House and Senate that would ban the transportation of horses in double deck trucks. PRCA stock contractors routinely transport rodeo livestock including horses in specially modified double deck trailers that provide for safe transportation. Passage of these bills would require more trucks to be on the road and raise the costs of transporting livestock to PRCA rodeos. The PRCA is continuously working to educate legislators and others on the transportation issues.”
MRAI: Where does the PRCA see the future of rodeo in regards to these issues? What can we all do to help ensure we get there?
“The PRCA is dedicated to continue to review livestock welfare standards and rely on experts on livestock care and handling to shape our livestock welfare program. We are confident that rules in place provide for the proper care and handling of the livestock, but believe that further review and improvement is always possible. Every rodeo fan, queen, contestant and committee member can share the resources available from the PRCA, be that via Prorodeo.com or printed publications to help educate the public about the care and handling of rodeo livestock.”
MRAI: If someone would like to help in this area/cause what would you recommend they do? How can others help?
“Those interested in advocating for the sport of rodeo should get a supply of PRCA Livestock information to have available when they need them, join the Pro Rodeo Livestock Group on Facebook, follow rodeo livestock on Twitter and subscribe to email updates from the PRCA by emailing email@example.com and ask to be put on the update list. There are often action alerts that will be included on the social networking sites or email updates that will allow those who would like to contact their elected officials to advocate on behalf of rodeo.”
Cindy also serves at the President/CEO of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which assists injured cowboys and their families with need-based financial assistance when they encounter rodeo-related serious injuries. This organization is very important to rodeo contestants as they are a part of a very dangerous sport that often provides the livelihood for their families. If you are interested in helping or donating to this organization visit their website at http://www.justincowboycrisisfund.com .