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Three animals euthanized after being injured at Calgary Stampede

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In just four days of competition at the 2024 Calgary Stampede, officials say three animals have died after being injured during chuckwagon races and the rodeo.

In the latest incident, a steer injured during the steer wrestling competition on Monday had to be euthanized.

The Calgary Stampede says the animal was assessed at the scene by a veterinarian, who then made the decision to euthanize it.

Stampede officials did not have any information about what happened, but called it "a highly unusual and unfortunate incident."

"We do everything possible to evolve our programs to minimize risk," an emailed statement read.

Stampede officials also confirmed the death of an outrider horse that was injured during the chuckwagon competition on July 6.

"The nature and severity of the injury was not determined until the animal left the track, at which time medical care was immediately dispatched," said the Calgary Stampede in a statement.

The horse, which was a part of Chance Thomson's team, was thoroughly examined and a decision was ultimately made to euthanize the horse.

Stampede officials said another horse, a member of Danny Ringuette's team, was injured during an incident of "wagon interference" during the sixth heat on July 5.

"Medical care was immediately dispatched. Following veterinary consultation, the humane decision was made to euthanize the horse," officials said.

'Very difficult situations'

Stampede officials shared their condolences with the families of both Thomson and Ringuette on the losses.

On Wednesday morning Stampede president Will Osler appeared on CTV Morning Live Calgary to share that sentiment.

"These are very difficult situations and the Stampede is thinking about the families," Osler said.

"The community is supporting the Stampede this year, as we'll get into. People are coming from all over the world to seek out all the experiences they can have at the Stampede including interactions with the animals.

"We appreciate their support and we do strive to mitigate the risks involved with those activities and we will continue to do that."

The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), which has been in opposition to the Calgary Stampede rodeo events for some time, said the death of the steer and horses illustrates exactly why the competition should end.

In a Tuesday news release, VHS said the latest death occurred after Stetson Jorgensen's run during the steer wrestling event.

It said Jorgensen twisted the animal's neck backward and the steer fell to the ground, "remaining stiff and motionless."

The agency also heard about Thomson's outrider horse shortly after the incident took place.

"We did receive an anonymous report from a member of the public who attended the event on Saturday. They said they witnessed the horses collide with a gate after the driver fell out and one of the horses appeared visibly injured," said VHS campaign director Emily Pickett in an email.

"Stampede coverage didn't show the heat in question, but we know that one driver, Kirk Sutherland, received a no time score in that heat."

The VHS said it reached out to the Calgary Stampede about both incidents but has not received a response.

Prior to media requests on Tuesday, the Stampede did not publicly disclose any information about the deaths of these animals.

Tuesday evening, the Calgary Humane Society posted the following statement to its Facebook page:

"Calgary Humane Society is an Animal Welfare Organization and a Law Enforcement Agency as opposed to an Advocacy or Activism Agency like Animal Justice. However, for many years now, Calgary Humane Society has made the team at the Calgary Stampede well aware of the fact that we are fundamentally opposed to the use of animals in entertainment, which includes the high risk events at the Calgary Stampede," the statement read.

"Our Animal Protection and Investigations Department holds the mandate for enforcement of the Animal Protection Act of Alberta within the jurisdiction of Calgary. This legislation prohibits causing or allowing animals to be in distress. Distress, however, is exempted in reasonable and generally accepted practices of animal care, management and husbandry, hunting, fishing, slaughter and pest control. The events at Calgary Stampede are considered to be included in these distress exemptions. Furthermore, public interest is a foundational tenant of prosecution. It is difficult to argue public interest when these events are sold out and broadcast nationwide.

"Animal Justice are welcome to take any steps they see fit should they feel Calgary Humane Society’s enforcement arm is not taking the action they wish to see. Being an agency run and staffed by legal professionals operating out of the province of Ontario, they may have a competing opinion on the interpretation of the applicable Alberta laws that we have been enforcing for decades. If they are so inclined and disagree with our assessment, they are welcome to file a private prosecution.

"The team at Calgary Humane Society are saddened by the animal deaths at the Calgary Stampede. Every year our executive director requests that the Calgary Stampede put an end to the events that put an animals life at risk so all living beings can have an enjoyable Stampede. However, every year we are informed by the Calgary Stampede that until people stop buying tickets, this will not be a reality.

"The best thing people can do if they wish to see change is voice their concerns to the Calgary Stampede directly or write to their MLA encouraging a legislative change." 

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