Calgary Stampede says animal safety boosted for this year's show

The Calgary Stampede is making the results of an audit of its animal welfare practices public for the first time.

Changes in chuckwagon and rodeo events revealed as officials release results from animal welfare audit

A chuckwagon driver brings his team across the finish line at the Calgary Stampede in 2010. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Calgary Stampede is making the results of an audit of its animal welfare practices public for the first time.

And officials say the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth is becoming safer for animals.

Jennifer Woods, an independent animal welfare expert and veterinarian hired by the Stampede four years ago, says she has noticed a change in attitude — one that’s yielding results.

"We're actually seeing the numbers of slips are going down, falls have gone down. So a lot of those high-risk areas have definitely come down and we're seeing compliance come up.”

New chutes were installed on the rodeo grounds last year.

And the health of the horses is more thoroughly checked before races — 16 horses were taken out of competition last year.

A new tent over the rodeo chutes loading area will give animals shelter and block distractions.

And for this year’s chuckwagon races, the inside lane of the track will be blocked off to give drivers a new emergency exit.

Wood stays at the Stampede full-time during the 10-day event, keeping an eye out for any mistreatment of the animals taking part in the rodeo or agricultural displays.

“During the sport I watch the animals, I watch the behaviour of them, I watch the handling,” she said.

“We want to make sure the guys are handling them correctly, we don’t have abusive handling or aggressive handling.”

But the Calgary Humane Society's Christy Thompson says her group remains strongly opposed to the rodeo and the chuckwagon races.

“Calgary Humane Society is first and foremost opposed to anything where an animal’s life is put at risk, or is being used as a form of entertainment,” she said.

"Just as a form of entertainment, you know a lot of those events are risky and we would like to see the end of those events.”

The Stampede says it has a zero tolerance policy for preventable animal injuries.

“We look to anyway that we can identify a risk and anticipate that risk and then eliminate that risk,” said Stampede spokeswoman Bonni Clark.