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SHARK circles again around CFD

By Baylie Davis
Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
July 30, 2008

CHEYENNE -- An animal rights group that has been focusing its energy on the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo lately says CFD made some improvements to animal treatment this year, but there are still more to be made.

As far as investigators for SHARK, SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness, can tell, no electric prods were used this year.

“That’s good news,” SHARK President Steve Hindi said during a news conference here Wednesday.

In the past, the prods have been used to shock animals in order to get them to leave the chutes quickly and buck harder.

The Hot-Shots were banned by CFD this year after it was determined that some were being overused by one stock subcontractor.

There also were some improvements to other events, like tie-down roping, and efforts to prevent animals from being dragged.

However, the elimination of the electric prods was the only one of the five recommendations Hindi made that CFD took.

While it’s a step in the right direction, Hindi was hoping for more.

During the news conference, Hindi and another SHARK investigator, Mike Kobliska, presented video footage recorded at this year’s rodeo.

It included documentation of jerk-downs, the practice of roping a calf by the neck and flipping it over onto its back before tying its feet.

It’s a practice that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association bans in some rodeos. But because the calves used at CFD are bigger and haven’t been roped a lot already, the rules don’t apply in Cheyenne, explained Bob Budd, chairman of the animal welfare committee for CFD.

However, he added, the animal welfare committee is evaluating the rule.

“We’re not very thrilled about that (jerk-downs) either,” he said.

Hindi also recommended that steer busting, or steer roping, be eliminated. It’s an event Kobliska said injures enough animals that some states ban the event.

The video showed several steers visibly shaken or appearing injured after being roped, tripped and jerked around in the event.

“Watching these, it’s amazing any of them get up,” Kobliska said.

But the large majority of them do get up, and that’s the point Budd makes.

In 1,700 runs throughout the rodeo, only seven animals were determined to be injured by the veterinarian, he said.

“That’s less than one-half of one percent,” he said.

While the committee is constantly evaluating how to prevent injuries to livestock, horses and cowboys, Budd said steer roping does demonstrate an important part of ranch life and is therefore a legitimate rodeo event.

Although timing the event might change things some, it’s about displaying the speed and efficiency that a cowboy needs to care for a sick or injured animal.

“The longer you run them around, the worse it is,” Budd said.

Hindi said he had contacted CFD officials for a meeting.

“Their response was cordial,” he said, and a meeting was scheduled for Wednesday night.

“I want to be able to look each other in the eye,” he said. “Neither side here is the devil.”

Budd said he is willing to sit down and listen to Hindi’s points. He might not jump up and make all the changes Hindi suggests right away, but he will hear him out.

Also, “we may be able to clear up some misconceptions he has about rodeo,” Budd said.