- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—CHEYENNE — Fewer animals were hurt or killed during this year’s Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo than in the past two years.

Bob Budd, chairman of CFD’s Public Relations Committee, said four animals — all steers — died from injuries or were subsequently euthanized during the 10-day event, which concluded Sunday.

That is a decline from the six animals that died in each of the previous two rodeos.

CFD officials additionally reported that 34 animals were examined and treated by on-site veterinarians for injuries or illnesses this year. That is far fewer than the 82 animals that were examined for sicknesses or injuries in 2014 and the 102 that were examined in 2013.

“This is the direction we want to go,” Budd said. “We’ve said all along that our highest priority is to reduce or eliminate (injuries and deaths). But our goal is always zero.”

All 34 of the animals that were examined this year, except for the four that eventually died, were treated and released to their owners or were found to be free of problems.

Budd and Cheyenne Frontier Days CEO Tom Hirsig said the drop in animal injuries and deaths is proof that several safety measures officials have put in place during the past few years are working.

These changes include moving the steer roping competition to slack in the week leading up to CFD’s official start. Hirsig said this allows the arena grounds to be prepared in a way that reduces the risk of serious injuries.

He said rodeo organizers also used lighter and more experienced calves for the tie-down roping event, which also reduced the chances for injuries.

Hirsig added that a team of veterinarians inspected all 6,000 animals involved in the rodeo activities at least twice a day.

But the drop in animal deaths and injuries didn’t stop animal rights advocates from denouncing the rodeo.

Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, also known as SHARK, has been a constant critic of CFD and other rodeos during the past several years.

Michael Kobliska, a SHARK investigator, said during a news conference Monday that the group documented several instances of animals being mistreated this year.

This includes three videos posted to the group’s website that show tie-down roping events continuing after a calf appears to go down with an injury.

“Once that animal is injured, that is when that event should stop,” he said. “They should get the animal treated or euthanize it.”

Budd said tying the calf up after an injury can actually prevent further harm, since it immobilizes the animal. But he said in one of the instances, the event should have been stopped.

“I think you have to chalk that one up and admit that we made a mistake,” he said.

Kobliska said the group also has posted videos on its website of “jerk-downs,” an illegal move that occurs when a calf is roped around the neck and intentionally flipped over backward.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bans the practice and recently imposed a rule that no time will be given — instead of just imposing a fine — if someone gets caught.

“We saw injured calves that after being jerked down, the contestants are still getting times, and that is clearly illegal by their own rules,” Kobliska said. “Why CFD allows that is a mystery to us.”

Budd, however, said the jerk-down rule was enforced. And he said there were far fewer violations than in past years.

“Occasionally it is going to happen, but there is a system in place to address that,” he said. “I would say in spite of what they believe, there were far less of those than we’ve seen.”

Kobliska did acknowledge that it appeared from the stands that injuries were down this year.

“Unfortunately, I think that is just the luck of the draw,” he said. “I didn’t see where they made any substantial changes in the way they treat the animals this year. I think they might have caught a few breaks and less animals were injured.”

Hirsig and Budd, meanwhile, both said that CFD officials will continue to look for ways to improve the safety of the rodeo in the months leading up to the 120th annual “Daddy of ‘em All” in 2016.

“We are committed to this,” Budd said. “And we’ve said for several years now that we are committed to this.”

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(c)2015 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

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