The treatment of horses transported overseas for slaughter and human consumption is at the heart of a two-day Federal Court trial which kicked off in Vancouver Wednesday. The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition claims the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is not following rules that require horses to be segregated and given ample head room during long-haul overseas flight to Japan.
The coalition is seeking a judicial review of the agency's pre-flight inspection practices along with an order that would compel the CFIA to comply with the Health of Animals Regulations in approving horse transport.
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that an animal protection organization has challenged the Canadian federal government over the transportation of animals in Canada," coalition lawyer Rebeka Breder said in her opening statement. "This case, in my submission, can have significant implications on future government decisions and the CFIA specifically, where their ongoing practice or policy is in direct contravention to existing law."
Compatibility of animals in question
The coalition filed the suit last year, claiming the inspection agency is following the guidelines of an interim policy introduced in 2017, instead of the sections of the Health of Animals Regulations which govern the transport of horses.
CFIA inspector-veterinarians have to ensure that all legal requirements are met before the horses can be shipped off to Asia. But Breder says the agency is side-stepping the regulations by claiming horses don't need to be segregated if they are "compatible" animals and that a horse's head or ears can touch the cargo netting above its head during air transport.
In its defence, the CFIA rejects the coalition's allegations. The agency also claims that new rules set to kick in next year make the case "moot." "The CFIA's role, on the facts of this case, is to determine whether the horses are healthy for export and are being safely transported," the agency said in a filing with the court. "There is no requirement on the CFIA to obtain a particular enforcement result, and it is well recognized that perfection in enforcement can never be more than an unattainable goal.
No agency above the law
Breder said the animals in question are mostly large Belgian draft horses, and they require room. "We're not talking about little ponies," she said. "We're talking about big strong animals." She also claimed that while draft horses may appear compatible with each other before being shipped overseas, they may become incompatible under the stress of a long flight.
The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition is dedicated to banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption in Canada and the export of live horses for the same purpose. But Breder said their aim in the Federal Court case is limited to ensuring that the horses are transported humanely.
"No government agency is above the law," coalition executive director Sinnika Crosland said outside the courtroom. Crosland said her group doesn't want to see horses "crammed" into crates. "If they're going to ship them, they should put them singly in a crate," she said. "What they would need to do is make the crates high enough so the horses' heads aren't touching the ceiling, so they can comfortably raise their heads and not bang their heads or their ears up against the ceiling."
Source: CBC News
A fifth horse has died at Santa Anita this fall, the 35th fatality at the famed Southern California race track since Dec. 26, officials said Friday. Six-year-old mare C Q Covergirl injured both of her front legs while running on the facility's training track Friday and was subsequently euthanized on the recommendation of the attending veterinarian. C Q Covergirl is the third horse to die on the training track in the last month. She had won six of 16 lifetime races and earned around $200,000, before her premature death.
C Q Covergirl was claimed in June for $40,000 by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, though Philip D'Amato had trained the mare for most of her career. D’Amato also trained Satchel Paige, who died on October 19, and Formal Dude, who died on June 8.
Although there is no rule to suspend trainers following a horse fatality in California, the state's race tracks have seen some changes in the last year. In March, Santa Anita Park declared a zero-tolerance policy for race-day medications, which may harm horses by pushing them beyond their bodies' physical capacities. In the same month, the California Horse Racing Board voted to limit whips in horse racing. Then in June, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law allowing the racing board to immediately suspend racing licenses to protect the safety of horses and riders, as a response to the climbing horse deaths at Santa Anita.
Still, the iconic race track has seen a significant drop in attendance since the ongoing controversy. Santa Anita Park is scheduled to host the world championships of racing, the Breeder's Cup, next weekend, marking the end of its fall season. In the meantime, the body of C Q Covergirl will be sent to the University of California, Davis, for a necropsy, as is protocol.
Both the California Horse Racing Board and the L.A. District Attorney’s Office are conducting investigations into the spike of horse fatalities at Santa Anita.
Source: ABC News
American horse racing has had a turbulent year with a spike in fatalities at Santa Anita Park in southern California and other equine health issues. No one knows why 30 horses died this past spring at Santa Anita because injuries and deaths are caused by a series of events, such as the track surface, existing unknown injuries, medication use or abuse, and/or other various factors.
Progress has been made as the industry works to understand the situation at Santa Anita and other tracks by improving racing conditions, including improved racetrack surfaces, better pre-race veterinary inspections, changes in race-day medication, and enhanced training protocols.
But much more needs to be done. A key problem affecting the health of horses remains the abuse and misuse of drugs. Nationwide, racing is plagued by the overuse of therapeutic drugs, which can serve as performance enhancers by enabling horses to push through pain and compete, contributing to the cause of many injuries and deaths.
Perhaps the most important racing reform to improve the health of horses is to establish a national system of equine medication regulation. Today, we have disparate regulations fragmented across 38 states, a patchwork quilt of rules, and racehorses fall through the holes far too often. Among jurisdictions, there is little transparency of treatment records or sharing of the medical history of individual horses. As a result, regulators cannot effectively manage the many issues involved in the health and safety of racehorses.
To address this problem, the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA) was introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.) with companion legislation introduced in the Senate by Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and McSally (R-Ariz.). HIA will reform medication use and establish a national anti-doping authority operating under the auspices of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and independent equine experts. USADA is the same congressionally approved organization that governs the medication program for the nation’s Olympic athletes.
The authority established by HIA would significantly improve the health of racehorses by giving us full medication and medical treatment transparency into the racehorse combined with drug reform and a comprehensive system of out-of-competition testing to ensure records are truthful. That means full transparency for investigation of treatments and drugs given to our equine athletes.
And many might be surprised by the support for this legislation from leading animal welfare organizations. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is an outspoken supporter of the HIA as is Animal Wellness Action, one of the nation’s leading groups advocating against animal cruelty. The HSUS is a founding member of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity and established the National Horse Racing Advisory Council to help improve equine health. The Animal Welfare Institute, one of the oldest animal welfare organizations, and the ASPCA are also part of the coalition. In addition, our effort has the support of equine welfare groups, including Horses For Life Foundation. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supports HIA because it will improve racehorse health.
The work of many in the horse racing industry and dedicated animal welfare groups are giving wind to the wings of reform. HIA is moving with 172 co-sponsors in House and hearings and a committee markup look likely for early next year in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
We can significantly improve equine health and reduce fatalities, but to do so, we need one set of anti-doping and medication rules across the country, a system that the Horseracing Integrity Act will create. To date, the industry has been unable or unwilling to act. Congress needs to pass this legislation to better protect the health of our equine athletes.
Source: The Hill