I had just watched my first calf roping the day before and was concerned about the welfare of the calves. Jon reassured me that professional ropers have every reason to be sure that the calves are not injured and that they carefully follow all the rules set out by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), including the sections that set out more than 60 rules for the care and humane treatment of animals. Anyone who violates these rules is subject to a fine and is at risk for disqualification from competition. According to the PRCA's official website:
Professional rodeo judges, who are responsible for the enforcement of all PRCA rules, believe in these humane regulations and do not hesitate to report violations. Becoming a PRCA judge involves extensive training in the skills needed to evaluate livestock and testing of that knowledge and of the rodeo. PRCA rodeo judges undergo constant training and evaluation to ensure their skills are sharp and that they are enforcing PRCA rules, especially those regarding the care and handling of rodeo livestock. Animal welfare is a major and ongoing initiative of the PRCA. Not only does the association have rules to ensure the proper care and treatment of rodeo livestock, but it also has several veterinary advisory panels and periodically hosts educational seminars for veterinarians and rodeo industry members. To coordinate its animal welfare efforts, the PRCA employs a full-time animal welfare coordinator to oversee internal and public education programs.
Rodeo competitors respect the animals that they work with and they have a serious financial stake in the outcome of their behavior while competing. The total prize pool for the recent Joe's Boot Shop 4th Annual Calf-Roping was $140,000. Jake Hannum, the 2004 Montana's Richest Calf Roping Champion, was awarded $8000. Many of these young rodeo professionals attend 50 to 60 events a year and their reputations in the arena guide their success.