Media Releases

Animal Justice, Ottawa Humane Society and Veterinarian Call for Law Enforcement at Bull Riding Event

OTTAWA—National animal law organization Animal Justice has alerted the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) about likely violations of animal welfare laws at the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event scheduled for June 8 at Canadian Tire Centre.

Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act (PAWS Act), which came into effect in 2020, prohibits causing an animal to be in distress and exposing an animal to an “undue risk of distress.” Animal Justice believes the conditions at the planned PBR event clearly meet this threshold.

If the event proceeds as planned on Saturday, bulls will be compelled to buck through the use of hard metal spurs and flank straps specifically designed to cause discomfort, combined with the unnatural sensation of a rider gripping tightly to their back in a loud, chaotic environment in front of thousands of spectators. This noise and commotion likely exacerbate the stress experienced by these animals.

“Bull riding is an activity that relies entirely on inciting a fear response in the bull. Bucking and aggressive behaviour is an evolutionary response to a perceived threat, such as having a ‘predator’ on their back,” said Dr. Malgosia Mosielski, a veterinarian who previously worked in the animal welfare branch of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. “While this response is important for survival, it is cruel and unnecessary to induce it for the purposes of entertainment.”

While the PBR frequently claims that bulls are enthusiastic “animal athletes” who enjoy participating in events, even suggesting they possess a “prideful zeal” for their role in the spectacle, such claims lack scientific backing and ignore the core issue: the bulls’ physical behaviour is primarily a fear response, induced by spurs, flank straps, and the overwhelming environment of the arena—something Dr. Mosielski feels is clearly evident in video recorded by Animal Justice at a June 1 PBR event in London, Ontario.

“The footage from the London event is troubling for a number of reasons. It is clear that the bulls were subjected to further stressors in order to amplify their fear response. Examples include increasing noise levels, using a flank strap to irritate or cause the bull pain, and the use of spurs. It is also clear that the bulls did not want to be in the show environment, as evidenced by the fact that many of them chose to exit the arena as soon as they were able to,” Dr. Mosielski said.

At one point in the footage from London, an agitated bull can be seen charging a horse.

Without concrete evidence to the contrary, it is irresponsible to dismiss the likely distress these animals experience, underscoring the need for stricter oversight or even cancellation of this event to ensure compliance with the PAWS Act.

“Promoters claim the bulls are ‘born to buck’ and refer to the animals as ‘athletes,’” said Sharon Miko, Ottawa Humane Society President and CEO. “PBR has painted an illusion of these bulls being willing and enthusiastic participants, when in fact people have gathered in these arenas to cheer at a creature who is stressed and agitated.”

Additionally, because the event is for entertainment and serves no valid agricultural purpose, Animal Justice has also advised the OPS that it will likely violate the Criminal Code, which forbids causing unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal.

“Bull riding events don’t get a free pass under Ontario’s animal cruelty laws. If the PBR goes ahead with these events, we fully expect organizers to be held accountable for any violations of the PAWS Act, particularly given the distress these bulls will likely endure and the routine use of spurs, and flank straps used to irritate bulls’ sensitive underbellies,” said Alexandra Pester, staff lawyer at Animal Justice.

Due to concerns about animal welfare, tools like flank straps, metal spurs—and in some cases rodeo events in general—have been banned in jurisdictions including Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and the United Kingdom, as well as in Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Port Moody, and North Vancouver.

Video from the June 1 PBR event in London can be found here. Please credit Animal Justice.


Josh Lynn
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]