Horses' health to be tracked by microchips
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, June 22, 2011 10:00PM EDT
CALGARY - Just a year after six horses died at the Calgary Stampede rodeo, the organization has announced new animal care standards.
Stampede officials say enhanced scrutiny will ensure only the healthiest animals will be used during the event, which runs July 8 to 17.
One measure will see veterinarians implanting a microchip in every horse that is scheduled to compete in the chuckwagon races.
Stampede officials say the chip will allow the horses to be tracked and monitored both during competition and at rest.
Last summer, two horses died of heart attacks, two were destroyed after suffering injuries and another broke its back from bucking too hard.
Another died after experiencing health difficulties 40 minutes after a chuckwagon race.
"This new program takes the Stampede's animal care program to an entirely new level," said Dr. Greg Evans, chief veterinarian for the Calgary Stampede, in a news release.
"It provides our independent veterinarians more detailed information about each horse and allows us even closer contact with each animal on race days and in between."
Earlier this year, the Stampede announced other measures aimed at improving safety for the animals at the event.
Drivers will be asked to submit a list of horses competing daily by 4 p.m. for a thorough pre-race inspection. If a horse is found not fit to compete, it will be "scratched" for that evening.
All horses will also be inspected as they leave the track, and the Stampede will impose a mandatory rest of two days for any horse that races four days consecutively.
Stampede officials said all animals, including bucking and bovine stock, will have to undergo a thorough veterinarian inspection prior to competition.
The vet will have the authority to withdraw the animal from the day's event should the animal's health appear to be in question in any way.
The Stampede had previously also announced new rules for the chuckwagon races, reducing to two from four the number of outriders on horseback who accompany each chuckwagon as it thunders around a dirt track.
A growing number of animal welfare organizations have taken the Stampede to task for what they say is cruelty masquerading as entertainment.
Last year, the protest spread to Britain. A group called League Against Cruel Sports called on Ottawa to end "the immense cruelty" inherent in rodeos and suggested to British travel agencies that they refuse to offer vacation packages to the Stampede.
More than 50 MPs signed a motion in the British House of Commons that asked the Canadian government to improve how animals were treated at the rodeo.
The Vancouver Humane Society said more than 50 chuckwagon horses have died since 1986.