Monterey County SPCA does not speak up, either
SALINAS, California––The 2019 California Rodeo Salinas ended on July 19, 2019, but the stench of manure––bovine, equine, and canine––lingers on above the Salinas Sports Complex.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, headed since January 2019 by longtime California Rodeo Salinas volunteer Jeannine Pacioni, reportedly recently rendered but did not publicly announce a decision to not prosecute what appears to have been a flagrant example of classic medieval-style bull baiting.
The alleged bull-baiting occurred in the center ring of Salinas Sports Complex, before hundreds of spectators, as one of the closing acts of the 2019 California Rodeo Salinas.
Videotaped by SHARK
The bull-baiting display, not on the official California Rodeo Salinas program, was videotaped by Showing Animals Respect & Kindness (SHARK).
SHARK hidden cameras later turned out to have captured similar incidents of alleged bull-baiting after California Rodeo Salinas performances earlier in the week.
Bull-baiting was banned in Britain in 1835, and has since been banned in most of the developed world. Bull-baiting has been banned in most of the U.S. for 100 years or longer.
(See SHARK video shows dogs baiting bulls at Calif. Salinas Rodeo 2019.)
What the video showed
The SHARK video, posted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prgX7QtdrvA, showed six bulls––who had just been run hard by rodeo clowns in a much smaller adjacent pen––gathering quietly by themselves near the gate through which they had entered the arena when first unloaded from trucks, before being teased by the rodeo clowns in the smaller adjacent pen.
The bulls would later exit through that gate, but not before being run hard again, several of them suffering visible injury.
Abruptly the bulls were charged by a mixed pack of five dogs, including at least one boerboel, a Catahoula leopard dog, two probable boerboel mixes, and a small terrier who tried to push the bulls toward the big dogs, away from the gate.
The big dogs, especially the boerboel and the Catahoula, lunged again and again at the bulls’ faces, biting and sometimes drawing blood.
Repeatedly the bulls tried to reassemble near the gate. Over and over the dogs snapped and bit, keeping the bulls at bay.
Sheriff’s Department & Highway Patrol participate
Non-enforcement of apparently applicable humane laws has been problematic at the California Rodeo Salinas for decades. Mounted Monterey County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol units are themselves participants in the California Rodeo Salinas opening parades.
The Monterey County SPCA, founded in 1905, calls itself “The Heart of Animal Rescue and Protection,” yet ANIMALS 24-7 has discovered no record of the Monterey County SPCA ever prosecuting, or even attempting to prosecute, California Rodeo Salinas participants for anything.
Neither is there any apparent record of the Monterey County SPCA ever even speaking out against any practice of the California Rodeo Salinas.
But bull-baiting has been explicitly illegal in California since 1957.
“Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment”
The California law, reinforced since then, now stipulates that bull-baiting is a “misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not to exceed one year, by a fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
Since the current language expressly includes a prohibition on worrying bulls, as well as on causing bulls to fight, either with each other or with other animals, the California Rodeo Salinas exhibition that SHARK videotaped appears to have been wholly illegal.
Promptly sending a copy of the video to the Monterey County SPCA, SHARK heard nothing in response for 50 days. Finally, on September 10, 2019, SHARK founder Steve Hindi inquired of Monterey County SPCA humane investigations supervisor Captain Martin Opseth, formerly a Monterey County Sheriff’s Office detective, if there had been any developments.
“Thank you for the video”
Responded Opseth, “The DA’s Office reviewed the report and will not be filing any charges at this time. Thank you for the video.”
Emailed Hindi, “The video speaks for itself. The injuring/worrying of a bull by dogs clearly violates California law. Will the SPCA do anything further to push for charges, or will the SPCA simply accept this flagrant case of abuse and miscarriage of justice?”
Replied Opseth, “We submit cases to the DA’s Office. They have the final say on whether or not if they want to pursue criminal charges. The SPCA for Monterey County is not a state, local or federal law enforcement agency. There are several other state, local and federal law enforcement agencies that might be able to further assist you. California Penal Code Section 597.5(c)(1) allows the use of dogs for herding livestock. The DA’s Office noted this section in their response and further explained that it would not be able to prove criminal intent, so at this point my office is not pursuing the matter any further.
“Only so much Monterey County SPCA can do”––but what has it done?
“I can truly appreciate that you are frustrated with this outcome,” Opseth said. “However,” Opseth concluded, “there is only so much our organization can do. Again, I thank you for bring this matter to our attention.”
As Hindi noted, the applicable California law explicitly prohibits the action of injuring or worrying a bull with dogs as a part of any public event. The action itself is prohibited, “whether for amusement or gain or otherwise.”
Intent, in other words, is immaterial.
There is an exemption for actions at a rodeo “necessary to the safety of participants,” but the six bulls standing quietly in the ring by themselves posed no threat to anyone when the dogs were set upon them, and even avoided injuring the dogs, who were injuring them.
How to tell herding from baiting
The difference between bull-baiting and herding trials is meanwhile both self-evident and made clear by the rules of herding competitions.
Herding dogs try to round up and move a group of animals as rapidly as possible to a fixed point, usually a small corral, and get them to go inside. If the herding trial includes “cutting,” one of the herded animals will be singled out before the rest are corralled.
Authentic herding dogs drive from behind and the sides, running to the front of the herd only to turn them. Herding dogs may bark and nip at the herded animals’ heels, but do not lunge to bite the animals’ faces, or bite and hold on, as the dogs in the SHARK video sometimes did, preventing the bulls from turning and moving toward any particular destination.
“When is enough enough?”
Fumed Hindi at Ospeth’s email, “The SPCA has a mission. While you do not have the power to force a prosecution, those of you working at the SPCA have mouths, and a standing in the community. We have brought other issues to the SPCA in the past, and never once has your organization taken action. When is enough enough?
“When we sued the rodeo a few years back,” Hindi recalled, “we received documents that showed the rodeo actually relies on the SPCA to back them up when they get heat for cruelty. If anyone at all cares about animals in your organization, how can you possibly go in for that?
“Your organization can speak up, and that is the very least that should happen. Do it for the animals. Do it for yourselves,” Hindi finished.
Green light to baiting anywhere in California
The inaction of the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and Monterey County SPCA has implications going well beyond the California Rodeo Salinas. That Monterey County district attorney Jeannine Pacioni believes the actions that SHARK videotaped to be un-prosecutable tends to give the green light to bull-baiting guised as “herding” anywhere in California, despite the explicit intent of the California state legislature to make bull-baiting illegal and keep it illegal.
But the Pacioni decision to not prosecute and the Monterey County SPCA public silence on the subject maintain a 185-year history of the county as a bastion of bull-baiting, first reported as such by U.S. Army officer, explorer, and fur trapper Benjamin Bonneville in 1834.
The Bonneville account was affirmed in most details by writer/sailor Richard Henry Dana in his memoir Two Years Before the Mast (1840).
The California Rodeo Salinas under the present name began in 1911. Media releases distributed by the California Rodeo Salinas itself promised bull-baiting and bullfighting, along with all the other standard rodeo events, at least as early as 1919 and as late as 1948.
Steve Hindi says
Rodeos occur across the US, but those who take action against this blatant abuse are extremely rare. This is just one indication of a movement that is long on talk, and pitifully short on action.
Individuals should not wait for groups to take action. The big groups are too busy counting their money and planning their next conference or gala. Anyone and everyone should head into their local rodeo and document what goes on. Then take the evidence to the media and the Internet.
To be certain, there is a way to do this. SHARK has hundreds of YouTube videos up exposing rodeo cruelty. Look at the videos, and if you wish, drop us an email at email@example.com
Protests are fine, but they are here today and forgotten tomorrow. The video documentation is here forever. We still have our video files from our first rodeo in 1993, and all of them since.
Come on, people, be the change you want.
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS, Oakland says
There are an estimated 5,000 rodeos held annually in the U.S. The PRCA sanctions only around 600. The great majority don’t even require on-site veterinary care for the animals, and injuries and deaths are commonplace. The PRCA began requiring on-site vets at their events only in 1995, after five animals were killed at the California Rodeo in Salinas.
Most of rodeo is bogus from the git-go. REAL working ranch hands never routinely rode bulls, or wrestled steers, or rode bareback, or barrel raced, or practiced calf roping as a timed event, And they assuredly did not put flank straps on the animals–it’s all hype, a macho exercise in DOMINATION.
Again, legislation is needed every year in every state to stop this cruelty.
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Irene Muschel says
Unlike many other forms of institutionalized animal cruelty, the horrific abuse directed toward animals
at rodeos is out in the open, in your face, and observable for everyone to see. The Shark videos on rodeos
shows a clear picture of what people are capable of doing to animals — with impunity.
Linda Rosenthal, a member of the New York State Legislature, has introduced Bill Number A8554, which would
ban calf roping, the use of flank straps or bucking straps, electric prods, and sharpened spurs.
New Yorkers who care about animals can contact the person who represents them in the Assembly.
If you do not know that, go to–
Click on Assembly Members. (top left)
Then go to Search by Address and put in your home address
This will give you the name and contact information for the government official who represents you.
People outside New York can contact their representatives about introducing a bill that would ban
the cruelty of rodeo practices if such a law does not exist already in their state.
Of course, as your article points out, laws without enforcement are a huge problem.
How that can be addressed, in terms of activist tactics that one could explore, is a subject I hope you will
cover in a future article.
Jamaka Petzak says
As my ex used to say, humankind is backsliding into the proverbial slime. This should have ended millenia ago, once and for all.
Sharing to socials with gratitude and disgust.
Balmy Jones says
Weak prosecutor. Should put it to a jury to decide.
Susan McDonough says
The law is the law. If the SPCA refuses to do something about this, the police
must. I was a police officer in NYS for 26 years and I decided that I wouldn’t
ignore animal cruelty. My agency realized that getting involved was an important step as they received more letters of appreciation for stopping hideous acts of violence toward animals than they did toward people. Any law enforcement officer who allow this cruelty has the backbone of a jellyfish.
Eric Mills, coordinator, ACTION FOR ANIMALS, Oakland says
ANTI-RODEO WEBSITE: https://www.actionforanimals-oakland.com
Legislation should be introduced every year in every state. Rodeos were outlawed in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) in 1934.
Eric Mills, coordinator
ACTION FOR ANIMALS
email – email@example.com
Steve Hindi says
To Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni:
I have been informed via email from the SPCA of Monterey County that you do not intend to prosecute the illegal bull-baiting which was clearly video documented at the 2019 California Rodeo in Salinas. Claims by rodeo spokespeople that what occurred was “herding” are completely false, and would be laughable were it not for the cruelty involved.
We subsequently contacted parties who supply bulls for the same company, Bullfighters Only, and we were told that dogs are never part of the act, and in fact would not be allowed. We also sent an investigator to two other rodeos featuring Bullfighters Only and confirmed that there were no dogs. The illegal bull-baiting which occurred are specific to the California Rodeo.
We have learned via your campaign website that you are a longtime volunteer for the California Rodeo. This is a clear conflict of interest. You should immediate recuse yourself and your entire office from any further involvement in this matter, and should appoint an independent entity to investigate and prosecute this case.
It is outrageous that this demand should have to be made. An un-compromised professional would have taken this step without any prodding whatsoever. Since that is sadly not the case, you may rest assured that we will pursue all legal options available to gain a measure of justice in this deeply disturbing matter.
Steve Hindi, President
SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness
There are a number of regional SPCAs/animal rescues that seem to go out of their way to “reassure” the public that they are about cats and dogs ONLY, and do not care about any other animal issues–as seen in my region as groups seemingly scramble to host steak dinners and auction gift cards to hunting stores, butcher shops, and horseracing tracks.
That said, I would have thought the involvement of dogs, who were also at risk of injury, would have at least inspired the SPCA to give this event a second glance. Guess not.