By Ann Schrader
The Denver Post
Officials investigating a claim that some National Western rodeo saddle broncs were inappropriately jolted with an electric prod did not contact the manufacturer before deciding not to seek charges.
Members of the investigating group said they relied on a supplier's comments that the 4,500-volt device could be used on horses, although the manufacturer says it shouldn't. They also relied on safety rules set by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
An animal-rights group — SHARK (Showing Animals Respect & Kindness) — filed an animal-cruelty complaint Jan. 25 with the Denver Animal Control Division.
The division has decided not to pursue charges. Its director, Doug Kelley, said a review indicated the horses did not suffer and the electric prod was used according to PRCA rules.
Kelley worked with the National Western's animal care and use committee, which state veterinarian John Maulsby chairs, and the Denver district attorney's office.
Maulsby said he thought someone from the group had talked with Miller Manufacturing, which makes the "Hot Shot Power-Mite" prod. That device was shown being used in a videotape made by SHARK at three rodeos.
Diane Balkin, a Denver assistant district attorney who joined Maulsby and others in the review, said her investigator was the one who called a supplier of the Hot Shot Power-Mite in her presence.
The manufacturer's marketing director earlier had told The Post the prods are intended for cattle and hogs, but not horses.
Balkin said the group was satisfied with information the prods have low amps and no horses were injured.
"There are checks and balances" in PRCA's rules to prevent harm, Balkin noted, such as the requirement that the animal owner, judge and contestant must agree before a horse is given a shock.
Cindy Schonholtz, the PRCA's animal-welfare specialist, said the prods are needed when a horse stalls in the chute before the gate opens. A stalled horse could explode in the chute, posing a risk to itself and the contestant.
Some horses have a tendency to stall, though Schonholtz said they don't do it all the time. She also said stock contractors don't want their horses harmed since that is how they make a living.