PETA responds to horse’s death at Cheyenne rodeo

IAN ST. CLAIR Updated: July 25, 2009 at 12:00 am • Published: July 25, 2009

CHEYENNE - PETA has responded to the death of one horse and an injury to another at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

In a letter sent Friday to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Chairman Keith Martin, the animal-rights group requested a ban on the use of flank straps on bucking horses.

PETA says these straps are responsible for both instances at the rodeo, and it doesn’t want to see anything else happen.

“There is absolutely no excuse for forcing animals to buck to the point that they injure or kill themselves,” PETA Director Debbie Leahy said in a release. “The sole purpose of a flank strap is to inflict pain so that animals will flail wildly to get it off.

“The time has come to do away with these cruel devices.”

Just how “cruel” a flank strap is to a horse is the heart of this debate.

“The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association ... relies upon veterinarians with livestock experience to offer expertise on livestock welfare policies, including specifications for equipment,” Cindy Schonholtz of the PRCA said in a statement. “Flank straps are designed to enhance the kicking actions of animals that are bred to buck.

“Livestock welfare surveys conducted by on-site veterinarians at PRCA rodeos continue to show the livestock are well-cared for, the rate of injuries are extremely low and the equipment safe.”

CFD Animal Care Committee chairman Bob Budd had a different take.

“There are a handful of people who would apparently like to run this rodeo,” he said. “We think the volunteers do the job just fine.”

Short of the horse, no one knows the role of the flank strap better than the riders.

“I just call it ignorance, I guess,” said bareback rider Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas. “They obviously don’t know what the flank strap does. They don’t know how it works.

“It boils down to these animals are our livelihood, and if we hurt them, we’re hurting ourselves. No one in their right mind hurts themselves on purpose.”

Kelly Timberman of Mills just shook his head and smiled when told of the PETA release.

“They don’t really know what’s going on,” he said. “The flank strap doesn’t hurt an animal. It’s wool. It’s fleece. All it does is it tickles them. It’s not pulled tight. It’s very loosely put on there.

“It’s really sad that they’re so strong about things. There are issues in life and with animals that they could be very good to help out with. But they’re hammering on us for a livelihood since the West was born.”

This isn’t the first time PETA has voiced concerns about flank straps. Several years ago it took the same course of action.

“After these straps are tightened around the animals’ abdomens, the animals twist and contort their bodies in a desperate effort to relieve their discomfort,” PETA’s letter to Martin said.

But the cowboys don’t plan to change any time soon.

“It would be great if (PETA) was educated a little bit more about our lifestyle and how much we appreciate and love these horses,” Lowe said. “These horses and all the livestock here are our livelihood.”

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