By Ann Schrader
The Denver Post
Investigations into claims that saddle broncs at the National Western rodeo were harmed by electrical jolts have cleared the animals' handlers.
"We will not pursue charges in this situation," said Denver animal control director Don Kelley.
He said a review indicated the horses did not suffer and the electric prod was used according to Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rules.
Another review completed late Friday by the National Western's animal-care and use committee — chaired by John Maulsby, state veterinarian — also found no wrongdoing.
Video shot last week at three National Western rodeos by an animal-welfare group showed men leaning into the chutes and touching a prod to several horses' necks and hips.
The horses then bolted and bucked out of the chute, and the men pocketed the prods.
PRCA rules allow the use of "standard electric prods" before the gate is opened to safely move a horse that stalls in the chute. Rodeo experts say a stalled horse can explode in the chute, posing a risk to the horse and rider.
Most prods produce a 4,500-volt shock. The marketing director of Miller Manufacturing, which makes one of the devices, told The Denver Post the devices are not intended to be used on horses at rodeos.
However, Maulsby said he talked with other company officials who said the prods can be used on horses.
A Colorado State University animal science professor said the prods deliver a jolt comparable to what a horse receives from an electric fence.
"I'm beyond disappointed," said Steve Hindi, the president of SHARK — Showing Animals Respect & Kindness — the group that made the video. "I understand the economics, I understand the politics, I understand the tradition, but the problem is, shocking horses isn't right."
SHARK, based in Geneva, Ill., says it is dedicated to ending animal abuse and suffering. It has videotaped other rodeos where prods were used, including those in Las Vegas and Cheyenne.
Hindi questioned the conflict of interest since Maulsby is the state vet and chairs the National Western panel that reviewed the claim.
"I guess the PRCA now determines Colorado and Denver humane law," Hindi said. "We're going to keep fighting."
In 2006, a Cheyenne paper reported the PRCA levied a $500 fine against the Cheyenne Frontier Days stock contractor when a subcontractor improperly used prods on about one-third of the bucking horses.