Animal cruelty investigators said they could find “no conclusive evidence” to indicate that a handheld electric prod was used on a horse that died during an event at Cowtown Rodeo on June 29.

Investigators from the New Jersey SPCA reached that conclusion after interviewing people at the rodeo and watching a video of the incident taken by an organization that alleges the horse died after being shocked by the prod, SPCA spokesman Matt Stanton said.

Stanton would not comment further, other than to say the SPCA’s investigation is closed.

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The SPCA’s finding is being called “outrageous” by Stuart Chaifetz of the Illinois-based Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK. Chaifetz took the video that SHARK alleges shows 9-year-old Duke dying about 30 seconds after being zapped with the device.

Chaifetz said a frame-by-frame look at the video clearly shows an electric prod being pulled “right back from the horse” as it is leaving its chute.

“The only logical conclusion was that the horse was shocked,” Chaifetz said. “There was nothing natural about it. If he had not been shocked … he would probably still be alive today.

Chaifetz said SHARK is challenging Cowntown Rodeo owner Grant Harris and SPCA officials to a public viewing of the video.

Harris could not be reached for comment.

Harris said after the incident that no electric prod was used on Duke. He said the prods have been used in certain emergency situations, such as moving large, heavy livestock that fell on and pinned their riders.

Officials with Cowtown Rodeo, which is located in Pilesgrove Township, Salem County, and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association said the horse died of a natural causes and not anything related to the rodeo, including an electric prod. PRCA sponsors Cowtown Rodeo events.

Cowtown officials said in a statement issued after the incident that the horse died of an aneurysm of his aorta blood vessel, a “natural, although rare, occurrence.” Cowtown Rodeo’s veterinarian “assured us that this had nothing to do with the rodeo event,” the statement read.

PRCA officials said after the incident that the organization was also conducting an investigation into the horse’s death. PRCA officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Contact Thomas Barlas:


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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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