Animal Welfare: Animals for Entertainment

Page last updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2018 - 4:40pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Rodeos in Western Australia

Rodeos are a competitive event made up of various western style competitions, such as bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and rope and tie events. Rodeos involve horses, bulls, steers and calves. Regardless of the animal type and how the animal is used, all animals used in rodeos must be treated humanely and everyone involved in rodeos must comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2002.

Proper consideration must be given to the health and welfare of all animals used in rodeos. The competitions, procedures and practises in rodeos should be designed in such a way that not only prevents cruelty, but also minimises the impact on the animal’s welfare.

People who have responsibilities regarding the organisation and running of rodeos must have appropriate training to ensure that the animal welfare needs are met. The Rodeo Manager, veterinarians, competitors, stock contractors and judges must have a high level of knowledge of animal welfare and must ensure the welfare of all animals used within their areas of responsibility.

Rodeos and the Animal Welfare Act

The Animal Welfare Act 2002 (the Act) and its accompanying regulations provide the legal framework for ensuring that all animals in Western Australia have appropriate standards of care.

If you are a person in charge or control of an animal then the welfare of that animal and the provision of reasonable care is your responsibility.

Reasonable care for animals includes but is not limited to:

  • provision of adequate food and water
  • suitable living conditions, including appropriate shelter
  • prompt treatment of illness or injury
  • appropriate handling, restraint and transport
  • humane euthanasia when required.

Section 19 of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 contains a number of provisions directly and indirectly related to the provision of care to livestock and other animals used in rodeos. These include;

Section 19(3), where a person in charge of an animal is cruel to an animal if the animal:

a. is transported in a way that causes, or is likely to cause, it unnecessary harm

b. is confined, restrained or caught in a manner that:

i. is prescribed (regulation 4 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations deals with prescribed acts), or

ii. causes, or is likely to cause, it unnecessary harm

c. is worked, driven, ridden or otherwise used:

i. when it is not fit to be so used or has been over used, or

ii. in a manner that causes, or is likely to cause, it unnecessary harm

d. is not provided with proper and sufficient food or water

e. is not provided with such shelter, shade or other protection from the elements as is reasonably necessary to ensure its welfare, safety and health

f. is abandoned, whether at the place where it is normally kept or elsewhere

h. suffers harm which could be alleviated by the taking of reasonable steps

i. suffers harm as a result of a prescribed act being carried out on, or in relation to, it

j. is, in any other way, caused unnecessary harm.

Harm is defined in the Act as including but not limited to —

  1. injury;
  2. pain; and
  3. distress evidenced by severe, abnormal physiological or behavioural reactions;

The Act provides a range of defences to a charge of cruelty in sections 20 to 30, including acting in accordance with a relevant (prescribed) Code of Practice. The Codes of Practice are found in schedule 1 of the Animal Welfare (General) Regulations. The most relevant Code of Practice is the Code of Practice for the Conduct of Rodeos in Western Australia. Others may apply in relation to specific activities such as transport, for example Code of Practice for the transportation of horses in Western Australia. For more information on Codes of Practice and their application under the Animal Welfare Act see the Animal Welfare Codes of Practice page.

Severe penalties apply for a person convicted of cruelty. A minimum penalty of $2000 up to a maximum of $50 000 or five years imprisonment apply for each offence, increasing to five times for a body corporate.

Code of Practice for the Conduct of Rodeos in Western Australia

The Code of Practice (the CoP) for the Conduct of Rodeos in Western Australia has been prepared to assist all persons handling or using livestock at rodeos in Western Australia. The CoP is supported by the Western Australian rodeo industry and provides the minimum welfare requirements for care and management of animals being used in rodeos. It is expected that any rodeos conducted in Western Australia comply with the CoP.

The Rodeo Manager is ultimately responsible and accountable for the conduct of the rodeo and ensuring compliance with the CoP and the Animal Welfare Act.

Proper consideration must be given to the health and welfare of all animals used in rodeos. The competitions, procedures and practises in rodeos should be designed in such a way that not only prevents cruelty (as defined by the Animal Welfare Act section 19), but also minimises the impact on the animal’s welfare.

People who have responsibilities regarding the organisation and running of rodeos must have appropriate training to ensure that the animal welfare needs are met. The Rodeo Manager, veterinarians, competitors, stock contractors and judges must have a high level of knowledge of animal welfare and must ensure the welfare of all animals used within their areas of responsibility.

Examples of welfare standards the CoP requires includes;

  • all competitors to treat all animals they interact with in a humane manner.
  • competitors to be disqualified for using any equipment which causes injury to animals during completion.
  • horn wraps must be used in team roping and must protect the ears and base of the horns from rope burns.
  • contestant must adjust the catch rope, reins and jerk line to prevent the rope horse from dragging the roped animal.
  • all calves used in the rope and tie events must be weaned.
  • any piece of equipment, either on the animal or which may be used on the animal, which may compromise its welfare, is not allowed.

While the CoP is not enforceable, it can be used by the courts as a yardstick to assess husbandry and management practices in cases of alleged cruelty. That is, where a person is charged with cruelty, the fact that a person has failed to act in accordance with a prescribed code of practice must be taken into consideration by the court but is not sufficient on its own to prove that a person committed the offence.

The CoP can also be used as a defence to a charge of cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act for a person to prove that they were acting in accordance with a relevant prescribed code of practice.

For a copy of The Code of Practice for the Conduct of Rodeos in Western Australia please click on the PDF links in the document list on the right of this page.

Calf roping events

There is considerable interest in the welfare of calves at calf roping events. Calf roping is a race against time where a calf is released from the chute with the rider and horse chasing behind. The aim is for the rider to catch via roping and immobilise the calf by tying three of the calf’s legs.

In calf roping events, it is not acceptable to pull an animal backward off its feet (jerk down) or to drag a roped animal. Contestants must ensure that they use not only appropriate techniques but also appropriate and properly fitted equipment to protect the animal against an abrupt stop after being roped and to prevent the rope horse from dragging a roped animal. Calves must also be weaned.

Under the Animal Welfare Act, it is an offence for a person in charge to confine, restrain or catch an animal in a manner that causes or is likely to cause unnecessary harm or in any other way cause unnecessary harm. Therefore, if a person in charge of an animal was roping a calf that caused it unnecessary harm or was likely to cause unnecessary harm, that action is likely to constitute an act of cruelty which is an offence under the Act.

Contact information

Animal Welfare General Enquiries