Drone video allegedly captures shocking animal abuse at Chicago area rodeos, sparking lawsuit

A pair of animal rights groups have filed a lawsuit against Boone County, accusing county officials of ignoring acts of animal cruelty at private rodeos.

And the groups say they’ve turned over plenty of proof, using drones to document inhumane practice at a number of rodeos, including one in rural Will County.

"We can put this drone up over this field, and we can see exactly what’s going on inside," said Steve Hindi, showing us a large drone in the back of his vehicle.  

Hindi is part of a group called SHARK, which stands for Showing Animals Respect and Kindness. For the past year or so Hindi and other animal rights activists have been using the drones to document private rodeos being held in Will County, Boone County and other parts of northern Illinois.

Video captured a couple of weeks ago in Will County shows rodeo riders beating their horses.

"When people start slapping a horse in the face, that’s over the line already," said Hindi. "When they start giving them full power punches, that certainly bad."


The drone video from Boone County is even more disturbing, showing animals being jabbed repeatedly with electric prods.

Steer are yanked to the ground as many as 15 or 20 times in a single rodeo, breaking bones and bleeding for hours.

"They don’t get any vet care. They just lay there," Hindi said.

In another instance the video shows a paralyzed steer dragged by its horns, then later lifted with an earthmover and dumped in a barn, where it was shot to death.

"They’re not hiding it," said Hindi. "They know our drones are up there, that our drones are looking right at them, and they will still beat the living daylights out of these animals."

Last week, UIC Assistant Law Professor Conley Wouters filed a lawsuit against Boone County on behalf of the animal rights groups, alleging that the county is not enforcing its own laws against animal cruelty.

"In the ordinance, it says you can’t issue these permits if there is potential harm to animals, animal, cruelty, at the shows," Wouters said. "We think the violence would stop if we shut these shows down."

The groups say they have also provided their drone video to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, which enforces animal cruelty laws in Illinois. But so far, they say, nothing has been done.

"Illinois has one of the strongest humane laws in the country," said Hindi. "We should all be very proud of that. But the enforcement gets an F. It’s absolute failure."

The animal rights groups say they’re considering a similar lawsuit against Will County if it doesn’t crack down on the rodeo practices.

A spokesperson for the Will County Sheriffs’s office said they were just recently made aware of the videos and the allegations, and detectives have launched an investigation.

Fox 32 left messages with the organization that sponsors the rodeos and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, but so far has not heard back.