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Whether it’s the Kentucky
Derby or the Olympic
Games, competitions involving animals can be dangerous for their nonhuman
athletes. That's why teams of veterinarians usually work at such events, doing
everything they can to make them as safe as possible for the animals
At rodeos, on-site vets work hard to ensure competing
livestock gets the treatment it needs before, during and after.
Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which sanctions rodeos across North
America, sets forth a number of regulations for animal care at its events.
“There are 60 rules
in place to govern the care of rodeo livestock, from horn wraps to weight
limits on steers and calves, the use of spurs — they have
to be dull and roll freely — [and the] movement of
livestock,” says Dr. Douglas Corey,
a veterinarian on the PRCA’s Animal Welfare Committee.
Dr. Corey wrote
the Guide to Veterinary Services at PRCA Rodeos and has worked at rodeos in
Pendleton, Oregon, and Walla Walla, Washington. He volunteers at the competitions
not only as a way to contribute to the community but also because he feels that as a vet that
it’s the right thing to do. “I like the event and want to see
that the animals receive the best of care,” he says.
In fact, many rodeo vets are volunteers;
they normally get paid only if they travel long distances to the event.
“Vets are required to be at the arena
for every performance of PRCA-sanctioned rodeos,” Dr. Corey
says. That includes “slack” events (in which contestants take part during off
times, when they’re not participating in regular rodeo performances). There is typically at least one vet per
rodeo, with several at larger competitions, he says.
Dr. Leslie Easterwood, clinical assistant professor at Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and Dr. Gregg Knape,
head of Gulf Coast Large Animal Clinic and
Veterinary Services, are responsible for the
medical and regulatory
veterinary work at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR). They have been the
show’s official veterinarians since 2003. Dr. Easterwood, who received several
scholarships from the HLSR during college, offers her time to the rodeo as a
way to give back and help other students get the kinds of opportunities she had. Having
grown up around the rodeo community and competed in horse events her entire
life, she also likes assisting the animals associated with the sport she knows so well.
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