Animal Welfare - What does it mean?



The Australian Professional Rodeo Association is considered by many to be among the most progressive animal related sporting organisations in Australia in regard to Animal Welfare policies and procedures.


APRA representatives were a part of the National Consultative Committee for Animal Welfare (NCCAW) for many years which was an advisory committee to the Government on Animal Welfare policy.


Today our representatives hold a position on the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy Group which is again an advisory group to government in relation to all areas of animal welfare.


The Australian Professional Rodeo Association and its members share the philosophy that animals should be treated humanely and with dignity. APRA rodeo livestock are valued by all those associated with the sport. They are the lifeblood of rodeo, safeguarded in rodeo competition by the APRA's strict animal welfare rules, first introduced in 1951 which was well before there was any legislative need for them.


These rules have been modified and improved over the years, but not as a result of any external pressures but because they evolved with the development of rodeo itself. Now, the APRA's Voluntary Code of Conduct for the Welfare of Rodeo Livestock is generally recognised as the most comprehensive animal welfare document for any performance animal activity in Australia.


The APRA's code incorporates not only its own rules but the best features of relevant animal welfare legislation, Commonwealth Model Codes of Practice and similar provisions for rodeo in the USA and Canada. It is essentially a 'best practice' document, to be used as a guide by rodeo people to ensure the welfare of rodeo animals. Penalties including possible disqualification from an event, fines and suspension.


In April, 1996 South Australia was the first State to endorse the Code of Conduct, incorporating it as a Code of Practice as part of its animal welfare legislation. The South Australian Minister responsible for Animal Welfare, Hon. David Wotton, MP said about the Code, "Your organisations proactive stance augers well for the improved welfare and protection of rodeo animals and your close cooperation with South Australia's AWAC and the Office of Animal Welfare has been appreciated."


Not only does the Code clearly define APRA policy that animals used in rodeo shall be treated humanely and with proper consideration for their health and welfare, it clearly identifies standards and procedures that must be followed for all rodeo events. Duty statements clearly set out the responsibilities of both rodeo livestock contractors and official judges. They are required to understand the Code and to be competent in rodeo animal welfare before they can get APRA accreditation.


THE Australian Professional Rodeo Association holds animal welfare clinics in every state to ensure the welfare of competition animals is paramount.


Former New South Wales assistant police commissioner Steve Bradshaw is the animal welfare representative on the board of the APRA and conducts the animal welfare clinics in each state.


In 2012 the APRA has run animal welfare clinics in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Northern Territory and one at Cloncurry in Queensland. Later this year clinics are being organised in New South Wales and south-east Queensland.

The APRA is always pushing the importance of animal welfare, we receive signed reports from the judges after each rodeo which identify any injuries, the cause and the end result.


There is a minimum standard for yards, chutes and arenas throughout Australia and all state regulations, standards and guidelines are strictly adhered to. All stock used in rodeos must be trialled prior to attending a rodeo and demonstrate that they are suitable for competition.


Despite the seasonal changes, weather conditions, droughts or floods

rodeo livestock are always well fed and cared for. Experienced livestock owners and handlers agree that if animals are to reach their peak performance and maintain the highest standard they must be well cared for.


Rodeo is an important part of the social fabric and economy of many rural communities. Often the annual rodeo is the biggest event in a community. Millions of dollars have been raised through rodeos for charities, community and sporting organisations.

The sport of rodeo has developed as much in this country as in America. The first recorded rodeo offering prize money in the world was in America in 1883 at Pecos, Texas and our first recorded rodeo was at Gayndah in 1897.


Over the past 15 years there have been over 330,000 usages of animals at APRA affiliated rodeos all over Australia. As every injury must be recorded at all APRA rodeo an extremely low injury rate is evident.


Just one injury is recorded for every 3471 times an animal is used. One animal is severely injured or euthanised for every 5571 times an animal is used.


Animal rights activists will claim that those figures are fabricated however to support these statistics I quote the injuries that were recorded by independent veterinarians that attended all Victorian APRA rodeos over the last 7 years. These injuries were compiled by the Victorian Animal Welfare Branch (DAFF).


Rodeo livestock in Victoria were used on more than 50,000 occasions demonstrating that there was one injury for every 1780 times an animal was used (some of these were very minor and include slight lameness, bleeding noses and minor abrasions). For every 8300 times animals were used one unfortunately died or was euthanised.

Some states may have their own Code of Practice Governing Rodeo.








Part 1 - Introduction……………………………………………..2
Part 2 - Responsibilities of Rodeo Personnel……………....4
Part 3 - Rules for the Care of Livestock……………………...6
Part 4 - Equipment Requirements and Specifications….…7
Part 5 - Stock Selection and Use……………………………...9
Part 6 - Arena Selection and Use…………………………….10
Part 7 - Specific Rodeo Events……………………………….12



Part 1 - Introduction



The role of the National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare (NCCAW) is to provide advice to the Australian Government and assess animal welfare issues. The committee’s membership consists of representatives from government, animal industry and community organisations.

This document is the national standard recommended by the NCCAW for managing and controlling rodeos. Its development involved extensive consultation with the major rodeo associations.

All Australian states and territories should adopt its contents when developing rodeo standards.

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of these standards is:

  • to set minimum requirements for the care and welfare of rodeo livestock, and

  • to establish benchmarks for effective co-regulation between industry and animal welfare agencies to ensure animal welfare at all rodeos in Australia.

The standards define the respective responsibilities of everyone involved in conducting rodeos.

General Principles

Proper consideration must be given to the health and welfare of animals used in rodeos. Events and procedures should be designed to prevent cruelty and minimise the impacts on the welfare of rodeo animals.

Those responsible for organising and running rodeos must be appropriately trained to ensure that animal welfare needs are met.

Everyone associated with rodeo animals must comply with prevention of cruelty legislation and follow the national, Model Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals.

These NCCAW Rodeo Standards are designed to address issues specific to rodeos, and complement legislation and national Codes of Practice.

Rodeo associations should have written rules based on, and consistent with, these standards. The rules should be designed to prevent cruelty and minimise the risk of injury to livestock. Associations should monitor compliance with the standards and enforce them as required.

Associations should have formal accreditation programs for rodeo organisers and stock contractors based on the standards, and actively promote them to everyone involved in running rodeos.

If other animal events not covered by these standards are run in conjunction with a rodeo, then the organising bodies should establish further standards which take into account animal welfare.


The objectives of these standards are to:

  • protect the welfare of livestock in rodeos

  • ensure that rodeo personnel are aware of their responsibilities, as outlined in these standards

  • provide guidelines and standards for arena conditions, yard and chute design

  • establish criteria for rodeo participants and staff in the handling and care of livestock, and

  • provide a basis for monitoring the welfare of animals at rodeos.


Unless stated otherwise, the following definitions apply throughout this document:


For the purposes of these standards, a rodeo is a competition using cattle and/or horses, which includes one or more of the following events:

  • saddle bronc riding

  • bareback bronc riding

  • bull riding

  • steer riding

  • roping and tying

  • steer wrestling

  • team roping

It is unacceptable to use animals other than cattle and horses in a rodeo. Animal maturity, weight and size are specified for some events.

Rodeo association

An incorporated association established for the purpose of coordinating and assisting in the running of rodeos and/or governing the sport

Rodeo organiser

Someone who instigates and promotes the rodeo. If a committee undertakes these tasks, it must designate, under these standards, a member to take on the responsibilities of rodeo organiser.


The judge appointed to officiate at a rodeo.

Stock contractor

Someone who provides livestock for rodeo events.

Livestock supervisor

The person who assumes the responsibilities of the stock contractor, if animals are not sourced from a stock contractor.


A veterinary surgeon appointed by the rodeo organiser, and who must be registered in the Australian state or territory in which the rodeo is held.


A competitor in a rodeo event.


Part 2 - Responsibilities of Rodeo Personnel

Policy Statement

Animals used in rodeos must be treated humanely.

States and territories are encouraged to license rodeos within their jurisdictions to encourage compliance with, and adequate monitoring of, these standards.

The stock contractor, judges, veterinarians and competitors must have a high level of knowledge of these standards, and ensure that the welfare of animals used in rodeos is within their areas of responsibility. They also must comply with relevant animal protection legislation.

Rodeo Organiser’s Responsibilities

The rodeo organiser is responsible for:

  • ensuring that all equipment owned by the club or association or individual organising the rodeo complies with the requirements of these standards

  • appointing the stock contractor and ensuring that the contractor is competent to undertake their duties

  • appointing a competent livestock supervisor (if there is no stock contractor) to undertake the duties of the stock contactor

  • appointing judges, clowns and pick-up teams (this responsibility may be delegated to the stock contractor)

  • appointing the veterinarian (*note that the stock contractor is required to do this in some states) – in jurisdictions where veterinary attendance is not mandatory and where the rodeo is being held in a remote area, the rodeo organiser must make reasonable attempts to secure a veterinarian’s services

  • ensuring that the veterinarian inspects all animals used in a competition before the start of the rodeo, and each animal after it is used on the program

  • ensuring that all personnel are aware of their responsibilities under these standards, and

  • providing a rodeo report to the judge, stock contractor and veterinarian for completion.

*If a veterinarian is not in attendance, the rodeo organiser must appoint someone who is experienced and competent to assess and deal with health and welfare problems of cattle and horses, including having the knowledge and means to undertake safe and humane euthanasia. That person must assume the responsibilities of the veterinarian as outlined in this standard.

The rodeo organiser must arrange for this person to be able to contact a veterinarian for advice and direction, if required. If a veterinarian cannot attend, and a rodeo organiser has appointed someone to act in this position, then that person assumes the veterinarian’s duties and responsibilities.

Stock Contractor’s Responsibilities

The stock contractor is responsible for the welfare, husbandry and handling of all rodeo livestock, except when animals are competing in the arena (where the judge and competitors are responsible).

Rodeo associations are encouraged to accredit stock contractors to ensure that they have the required knowledge of the standards and the skills to comply with them.

The stock contractor must ensure that:

  • the welfare requirements of livestock en-route to and from the rodeo are met

  • transport and handling of animals is undertaken in accordance with the relevant Model and State Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, and legislation, including the provision of appropriate food, water and shelter

  • all animals supplied are in good health, and all animals used in any event conform to these standards

  • yards, chutes and the arena surface are inspected before the rodeo and comply with these standards

  • only properly qualified and competent personnel are appointed to care for, handle and treat rodeo livestock

  • no stimulant, hypnotic or other substance is used on any animal which is to take part, other than that prescribed by a veterinarian for the legitimate treatment of injury or illness

  • unsuitable animals are withdrawn from competition

  • if the veterinarian determines that an animal is not suitable for competition that the animal is not used

  • cattle and horses are penned separately in the yards and during transport

  • aggressive and injured animals are isolated from others, and animals with young at foot are not yarded or used in connection with a rodeo

  • proper treatment for any injury is given promptly and, if required, veterinary assistance obtained

  • the requirements of these standards are met outside the arena, namely in chutes, yards, surrounding areas and, if aware of non-compliance by other personnel, advise the judge

  • all stock handlers used are competent to undertake their duties in compliance with these standards

  • require that an animal be turned out of the chute if of the opinion that the risk is unacceptable. The judge may order the stock contractor to release an animal, and

  • contribute to the report of the event.

    Livestock Supervisor

A livestock supervisor must have the same level of knowledge and competence expected of a stock contractor and assume all the stock contractor’s duties and responsibilities as outlined in these standards.

Judge’s Responsibilities

Judges are responsible for animals competing in the arena. They should have a thorough knowledge of these standards and must ensure that:

  • any competitor who breaches these standards in the arena is penalised or reported as appropriate

  • any animal which becomes lame, sick, injured or has defective eyesight during the competition is removed from the competition, and direct the person in charge of the animal to seek appropriate treatment for it

  • inspections are performed on all competition equipment and ensure that the manner in which the equipment is set or used on the animal complies in all respects with these standards

  • a report is provided to the state or territory authority for animal welfare within 21 days of the rodeo being held. The report should provide:

    • the date and location of the rodeo

    • names, addresses and contact details of the rodeo organiser, stock contractor, judge and attending veterinarian.

    • the number and type of events and animals used

    • the number, types, and severity of any animal injuries, and

    • breaches of these standards, and corrective actions taken.

  • appropriate action is taken against personnel who fail to comply with these standards and rodeo rules.

    Competitors’ Responsibilities

Competitors in rodeo events are responsible for the animals they use during an event. All competitors must:

  • not treat animals in a way which causes injury or harm

  • only use equipment complying with these standards

  • obtain prompt and proper treatment for any injury to any animal they use in the competition (other than animals supplied by the contractor), and

  • comply with all relevant sections of these standards.

    Veterinarian’ Responsibilities

Veterinarians must have the necessary experience with cattle and horses to deal with the health and injury issues that might arise in a rodeo.

Veterinarians are responsible for:

  • providing expert advice on an animal’s health, injury or disease status, and the animal’s suitability for competition Veterinarians have the final say on

  • inspecting animals before and after events

  • dealing with emergencies

  • being present during all events (if required by the jurisdiction), and

  • contributing to the report of the event.


Part 3 - Rules for the Care of Livestock

Sick and Injured Animals

Stock contractors are responsible for ensuring that no sore, lame, sick, injured, or sight-impaired animal is permitted in the draw. In the absence of a Veterinarian at a rodeo, the Stock Contractor assumes the Veterinarian's responsibility.

If an animal becomes sick or injured between the time it is drawn and the time it is scheduled to be used, it must not be used.

Sick or injured animals must be given appropriate treatment.

Veterinary Attendance

A veterinarian is the most appropriate person to look after animal welfare issues. A veterinarian should be onsite at all times to handle animal emergencies and to inspect all animals before and after competition. In some jurisdictions, the attendance of a veterinarian is mandatory.

A veterinarian’s decision on the suitability of an animal for competition is final.

Response to Serious Stock Injuries

A conveyance must be available to remove a seriously injured animal to a suitable place for further examination and treatment. If an animal is to be euthanised, this must be done humanely.

A seriously injured animal must be yarded such that it is not endangered by other livestock, housed appropriately, and be examined and treated immediately by the veterinarian.

Means to euthanise seriously injured animals, and someone licensed and qualified to do so, must be available at all times while the rodeo is in progress. Livestock must be euthanised in accordance with the national Model and State Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals for the species concerned, and according to legislation.

Injury Prevention

Chutes, yards, lanes and races must be designed, constructed and maintained in a way that minimises the risk of injury to handlers or animals, and assists the quiet and efficient handling of stock.

An animal that repeatedly gets down in the chute, or tries to jump out of it, or becomes excessively excited must be released and examined by the veterinarian. If found to be unfit for any reason, the animal must be withdrawn from participation for that day or session.

Trained people should be available to humanely assist an animal if it gets caught in the chutes, yards or races. Suitable equipment and people should also be on hand to make necessary repairs to these facilities and to ensure that they meet the required standard.

General Safety and Welfare Provisions

Livestock must be removed promptly from the arena after completing an entry.

No small animal or pet will be allowed in the arena or in the line of sight of livestock without the judge’s consent. Note: legislation in some states prohibits the presence of small animals or pets in the arena.

Livestock must not be directly exposed to fireworks that are likely to cause fear or distress. Some states legislate the use of fireworks.


Part 4 - Equipment Requirements and Specifications

Rodeo Livestock Handling Equipment

All livestock must be treated humanely, and handling equipment must not be used cruelly or excessively.

Equipment for livestock-handling must be of the type and specification generally used to transport and handle horses and cattle, and must comply with the national Model and State Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Animals for the species concerned, and with appropriate legislation.

Electric prods

Electric prods may be used under the following conditions:

  • they must be of low amperage and powered by dry cell batteries only

  • be of a type and standard used generally for the handling, yarding and transport of livestock

  • used with restraint and restricted to the minimum amount necessary as an aid for loading and handling livestock (including to encourage an animal that is down and leaning heavily against the chute to re-position), and

  • applied only to those parts of the animal covered by hair.

Electric prods must not be used in time events:

  • if an animal is loaded and standing in the time event chute/box, or

  • to send an animal into the arena when the chute/box gate is opened.

Electric prods must not be used in riding events:

  • when an animal is secured in the chute (except in the circumstances above), or

  • when the chute gate opens, unless it is necessary to protect both the animal and the contestant from possible injury against the chute or chute gate, or to turn out a chute-stalling animal. In such cases the prod may be applied only to the animal’s shoulder or hindquarters to clear it from the chute, and under the stock contractor’s direct supervision.

An electric prod may not be used in the arena under any circumstances.

Handling aids

The use of aids such as flappers, metallic rattles and light polythene tubing to encourage movement in response to sound is acceptable, and for handling animals in yards, lanes and races.

The use of aids such as sticks, lengths of heavy plastic, metal piping, fencing wire or heavy leather belts to strike or poke animals with enough force to cause pain or injury, is not permitted.

Event Equipment

Event equipment is used to assist the event and should be designed to ensure that the animal is not injured. The equipment’s owner is responsible for its suitability. Equipment must conform to the specifications below.


Spurs are used to help the rider’s timing and purchase on the animal in bucking stock events and should not be used as a goad. To reduce possible injury to the animal, the spur rowel must be dulled and not less than 3mm wide at its narrowest part. The minimum diameter to the point of the rowel is 2cm.

For bucking horse events, the rowels must be free running.

For bull riding, the rowels may have restricted movement but must not be fully locked, and be able to move at least a quarter turn.

Flank straps

Flank straps are used to improve the animal’s bucking style. Only lined, quick release straps can be used. The lining must be soft and flexible such as a soft plastic, felt or sheepskin.

The strap’s lined portion must be positioned to cover both flanks of the animal and its belly. The coverings and linings must be soft and flexible, and must not be worn or damaged. Sharp or cutting objects must not be used.

Protective horn wraps

Horn wraps must be used in team-roping to protect the ears, eyes and base of horns from possible injury.

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