Anyone with a passing interest in Thoroughbred racing or animal welfare is very familiar with the breakdown of horses at Santa Anita Park during their winter/spring meeting.
This meet opened on December 26 and finished on June 23. There were a total of 30 breakdowns, including races and workouts. On March 14, Belinda Stronach, President and Chairman of the Stronach Group, presented an open letter on the future of Thoroughbred racing in California. Some of the important safety initiatives included:
There were two additional important proposed initiatives that are significant but do not relate directly to breakdowns. One is a restriction on the use of Lasix. Starting in 2020, no 2-year-old will be able to run on Lasix, and, in 2021, all Santa Anita stakes races will be Lasix-free. Secondly, the Stronach Group is proposing both structural changes in the composition of the whip and a dramatic reduction in how it can be used by the jockey. These two initiatives will have to go through the rule-making process, including consultation with horsemen, before they can be voted on by the California Horseracing Board.
Hollendorfer facts are hard to digest
On June 22, a horse of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer broke down on the Santa Anita training track and had to be euthanized. Unfortunately, this was the fourth Hollendorfer horse to break down, racing or training, during the meet, and he also had two breakdowns during the Golden Gate meet, which ended on June 2 and will re-open on August 15.
Later on June 22, Hollendorfer was told by the Stronach Group he would no longer be allowed to race or train at Santa Anita and that the four horses that he had entered on the final two days of Santa Anita were scratched.
The further facts are hard for me to digest, so I imagine how Hollendorfer must feel. He was elected to the National Racing Hall of Fame in 2011, lifetime he has won 7,617 races from a total of 33,519 entered, and until June 22 he had over 100 horses in training in California. Other than being ruled off by the Stronach Group, he does not appear to have heard any further details of why he was suspended.
Most racing jurisdictions have one organization for owners and trainers. However, in California the owners are represented by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) and the trainers by their own organization, the California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT). It is truly remarkable that, as of right now, the CTT has not come forward with a strong statement of support for Hollendorfer, who remains a licensee in good standing with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
An industry that has lost its soul
In sum, the industry is not full of change agents seeking new challenges and changing the business. However, as I tried to outline above, we are desperate to change in many areas. We need to identify and eliminate the cheaters in the game. We also need to protect the interests of our owners, breeders and employees to assure them that we run an honest business that works in the interests of all participants.
If we try to stand still with existing policies and business practices, we are only going to go backwards. I wrote what I thought was a very important article back on April 2. It was primarily stimulated by the most powerful case for reform in U.S. Thoroughbred racing and breeding that I have ever read: Vision 2025. If you are invested or interested in the U.S. Thoroughbred industry, you have to read this nine-page report.
I truly believe we are an industry that has lost its soul and its determination. We so desperately need the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2019 and the important changes in the business model that the legislation requires. As I have tried to outline above, our current collection of industry organizations and regulatory bodies are simply going to bring the industry down. Please, no more ‘go along to get along’.
Source: Charles Hayward for TRC
Nearly 500 Thoroughbred racehorses died in the U.S. in 2018. Here’s why:
Each spring in the United States, the nation’s swiftest Thoroughbreds compete in the Triple Crown, a hundred-year-old series of three races. Fans don large hats, and jovial crowds gather to watch the elegant animals sprint down the track. Despite its popularity, horse racing is a dangerous sport for both horse and jockey. In the U.S. in 2018, 493 Thoroughbred racehorses died, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.
Most of these deaths are the result of limb injuries, followed by respiratory, digestive, and multiorgan system disorders. In fact, most of the 23 horse deaths at the California racetrack Santa Anita Park in recent months were due to limb injuries.
Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, says the deaths may be because horse racing has become more competitive. Horses aren’t getting the rest they need, especially in temperate places like southern California, where the animals race year-round, he says.“It’s hard to keep an athlete absolutely at the top of their fitness 12 months out of the year.”
The unprecedented spate of fatalities at Santa Anita has also placed renewed focus on the safety of the sport. For instance, in March 2019, bipartisan U.S. lawmakers introduced a federal bill, the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, that would create a uniform national standard for drug testing racehorses. The horse racing industry is currently regulated by states.
The Jockey Club, which works to improve Thoroughbred breeding and racing, supports the bill. “It’s time we joined the rest of the world in putting in place the best measures to protect the health and safety of our equine athletes,” the organization said in a statement.
While a broken leg is easily treatable for humans, it’s often a death sentence for horses. That’s because horses have so little soft tissue in their legs that the bone often tears through skin or cuts off circulation to the rest of the limb, leaving them prone to infection. In some severe cases, the bone shatters, making it nearly impossible to reassemble.
Even if the horse’s bone could be set, it wouldn’t be able to support weight for several weeks. If horses can’t distribute their weight relatively evenly, they risk laminitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of tissue inside the hoof. In general, if a horse can’t stand on all four legs on its own, it won’t survive and will be euthanized, Arthur says.
And when a horse falls, its jockey is often hurt, too. A 2013 analysis of about five years of California horse racing data showed 184 jockey injuries from 360 reported falls. Most of the falls occurred during races and were the result of a “catastrophic injury or sudden death of the horse,” the study found.
The drug controversy
Trainers have been accused of making an already risky situation worse by drugging horses with performance-enhancing substances or painkillers, animal welfare advocates say. Such drugs allow horses to run faster and power through the pain. For example, the drug furosemide, popularly known under the brand name Lasix, is a “performance-enhancing drug cloaked as a therapeutic medication,” according to a March report by the Jockey Club.
While it’s prescribed to treat bleeding in the lungs, the medication also causes urination and, consequently, weight loss. Lighter horses run faster, and Lasix has been shown to help horses run three to five lengths faster. The legality of each drug varies by state. (Read about the most detailed history of horse evolution ever assembled.)
While some animal activists feel such drugs should be banned, others in the horse racing industry believe better self-regulation is the answer. To that end, the proposed horse racing legislation would establish an independent, self-regulatory body—affiliated with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency—to regulate racehorse medication, list which substances are and are not permitted, and ban medications within 24 hours of racing.
Source: National Geographic
Horse racing is plagued by drug use and a poor reputation, and casual fans are turning away.
The Horseracing Integrity Act could rescue a sport that seems unwilling to save itself.
Twenty-two horses died at the famed Santa Anita racetrack in southern California before its owners halted the current racing season to determine what had caused so many fatal injuries within just a 10-week period.
An alarmed California Horse Racing Board last week imposed strict new safety and medication rules before allowing racing to resume. The deaths are also bringing new attention to the Horseracing Integrity Act, federal legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, the Democrat from Amsterdam, and U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican.
The bill proposes to put drug rule making, testing and enforcement in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the private, nonprofit government body that administers the Olympic anti-doping program. It would create a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horse racing.
Notably, the legislation is backed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which includes racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal-welfare groups.
They all understand that the changes could help restore faith in a sport with a less-than-stellar reputation — one that, over decades, has experienced a dramatic decline in popularity. It's not hyperbolic to suggest Mr. Tonko's bill might save a sport that seems unwilling to save itself.
Often, doing the right thing butts up against economic realities. This, thankfully, is a case in which what's right is also the smart financial choice.
Nevertheless, the horse racing industry has been slow to recognize that questions about the treatment of its equine athletes present a threat to its very survival. With so many other entertainment options available, casual fans, especially, will turn away if they believe stars of the show are being mistreated.
Meanwhile, as sports gambling continues to expand, bettors also have more options. They may choose to bet on other sports if they believe widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs is tainting the integrity of races.
While experts disagree over what caused so many deaths so quickly in Santa Anita, the link between the overuse of drugs and fatal equine injuries is clear.
In some cases, drugs push the animals past natural limits and endurance. They also falsely prop up thoroughbred bloodlines that would otherwise expire, over time producing horses that are ill-prepared for the rigors of the sport.
The overwhelming majority of trainers and owners want to do what's best for their horses, and many understand that a more holistic approach to the sport could generate stronger horses. They also want to compete on a level field.
But the current state-by-state patchwork of laws and regulations makes it more difficult to do both. The Horseracing Integrity Act would change that, for the benefit of the sport, and its stars.
Source: Times Union
The Jockey Club released a new white paper calling for much-needed reforms to the horse racing industry, including the support of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019. Below are highlighted excerpts. Click here to read the full paper.
Since its founding 125 years ago, The Jockey Club has been dedicated to the improvement of breeding and racing of Thoroughbreds, focusing on improvements to the integrity, health, and safety of the Thoroughbred breed and the sport of horse racing. The Jockey Club has long held that horses must only race when they are free from the effects of medication.
We believe that horse racing needs to aggressively pursue a series of changes to how it is regulated. Without these reforms, the future of the sport will continue to wane. A number of critical reforms to address the health of horses and the integrity of competition are included in this paper – each of which deserves public attention and immediate consideration, especially as they relate to the issue of drug use. Improper drug use can directly lead to horse injuries and deaths. Horses aren’t human and the only way they can tell us if something is wrong is by reacting to a symptom. If that symptom is masked, the results can be devastating.
Following the deaths of 22 Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita Park over the past three months, the horse racing industry in the United States has been forced to reevaluate the measures we currently have in place to protect our horses and maintain high standards of integrity in the sport. The industry has rallied behind laudable reforms to protect our horses, including greater analysis of track surfaces, and The Stronach Group issued a series of new rules at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields pertaining to issues such as transparency in vet records, improved out-of-competition testing, crop use, and a landmark reduction in medications administered to horses.
In the United States there are 38 states that have authorized horse racing, each maintaining its own set of regulations. Relying upon a system of individual state-based regulations and rules denies the industry the ability to affect dynamic and effective change.
However, it would be a mistake to view the Santa Anita fatalities as an isolated situation — spikes in the deaths of horses have occurred at other tracks and they will continue to occur without significant reforms to the horse racing industry. The issue isn’t about a single track — horse fatalities are a nationwide problem, one that has shocked the fans, the industry, the regulators, and the general public.
Will we ever know the exact cause of spikes in horse fatalities? Unless there is change in the industry that answer is, sadly, probably not. A key to this change is the requirement of full transparency into the medical treatment, injuries, and health of all racehorses. Today, we can’t fully see what is going on with a horse because of differing state and track practices, antiquated practices, and purposeful deceit about what drugs are given to horses at what times.
To address these grave issues, The Jockey Club supports the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, or H.R. 1754. The bill would create a private, independent horse racing anti-doping authority (HADA) responsible for developing and administering a nationwide anti-doping and medication control program for horse racing. The authority would be under the oversight of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the organization entrusted by the United States for drug testing of its Olympic athletes. Horse racing would operate under a single set of anti-doping and medication rules across the country, a system that the racing industry has never been able to replicate on its own.
H.R. 1754 is the only way for horse racing to have a national rule book, effectively police itself and stay ahead of cheaters. If the industry wants to remain sustainable for the future, it must take the appropriate actions to protect the horses and the integrity of the game. The appropriate action is to support the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act.
The Bottom Line
The time has come for a new regulatory paradigm for horse racing in the United States. One that is based upon a renewed commitment to the horse and unyielding integrity in the system, from the breeding shed right through to retirement. The reforms outlined in this paper and those embodied in the Horse Racing Integrity Act are critical to ending unsafe practices and would bring the U.S. horse racing industry up to accredited international standards that have led to dramatically fewer breakdowns and horse fatalities in other countries.
Reforming the U.S. racing industry has been supported by some of the most prominent and powerful groups in the sport, including the New York Racing Association, Keeneland Association, The Stronach Group, Breeders’ Cup, and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Associations and organizations that support the Horseracing Integrity Act represent 59% of all pari-mutuel handle generated and 63% of all graded races run for Thoroughbreds in North America in 2017.
In addition, according to a poll conducted by Paulick Report, one of the largest online news sources in horse racing, more than 70% of respondents support the bill. Opponents may not want to admit it, but the majority of those involved in horse racing know that the current system is not working, and that it is time for meaningful change.
More than ever, horse racing is under the microscope by animal welfare groups, the media, and the public. The racing industry must show that the health of its equine athletes is a paramount concern. How can the industry make this pledge? A meaningful start would be to support the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 and to embrace the reforms highlighted here.
Legislation would protect equine athletes with nationwide standards against horse doping.
Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Andy Barr (R-KY), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus, reintroduced H.R. 1754: the Horseracing Integrity Act today to establish a uniform national medication program, bringing the United States in line with international standards.
“Horseracing thrives when we put the majestic equine athlete front and center” Tonko said. “Our legislation creates a set of nationwide rules that are clear, consistent, and conflict-free. This will make horseracing safer for our equine athletes and jockeys while increasing confidence in the sport among the trainers, owners, horseplayers, and horseracing fans alike. This sport of kings has long supported good jobs and delivers billions of dollars in economic impact every year in my home state of New York and throughout the country. I am grateful to Congressman Barr for partnering with me on this common-sense legislation and look forward to advancing our measure through the House.”
“As the Representative for the Horse Capital of the World, I have the distinct honor of fighting for the future of this great American sport,” said Congressman Barr. “I continue to believe the prosperity of Kentucky’s signature horseracing industry depends on national uniform medication standards and testing procedures. I am proud to reintroduce this legislation with my friend and colleague, Congressman Tonko, and I look forward to building upon the great bipartisan work we secured last Congress, including more than 100 cosponsors, to ensure the safety and integrity of this sport is preserved for years to come.”
Under existing law, 38 state racing commissions make up the U.S. horseracing industry, producing an inconsistent patchwork of rules governing the sport, including medication policies and practices. Setting common-sense national standards consistent with horseracing worldwide would enable greater interstate collaboration and commerce and allow public confidence in the sport to flourish.
The Horseracing Integrity Act
A stunning rash of horse fatalities could be breathing life into efforts to reform thoroughbred racing.
Nine days after Santa Anita was shut down following almost two dozen race-related deaths, Kentucky Republican Andy Barr and New York Democrat Paul Tonko reintroduced legislation Thursday that would establish uniform national medication standards, including the elimination of race-day Lasix.
Later Thursday, the Stronach Group, announced its unilateral decision to ban Lasix at its California tracks: Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, to further restrict certain forms of therapy and anabolic steroids, to increase out-of-competition testing and to provide transparency on all veterinary records.
"We will wait no longer for the industry to come together as one to institute these changes," Belinda Stronach wrote in an open letter. "Nor will we wait for the legislation required to undertake this paradigm shift. We are taking a stand and fully recognize just how disruptive this might be."
The Horse Racing Integrity Act has failed to gain traction in three previous attempts since 2011, but advocates are hopeful the political calculus is changing amid the fallout from a recent rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita.
Barr said the timing of the bill’s introduction was coincidental, but it occurred on the same day Santa Anita experienced its 22nd fatality since Dec. 26, a Thursday morning accident when Princess Lili B broke both front legs at the end of a half-mile workout.
“What’s happened out there at Santa Anita, it scares me,” said breeder Arthur Hancock, owner of Stone Farm in Paris, Kentucky. “It’s a crisis. ... I hope it has softened some of the objections from some people.”
“It’s not an issue only in California,” Breeders’ Cup President Craig Fravel said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed nationally.”
Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, says the state’s rate of race-related fatalities was “unprecedented” in 2018 at 2.39 per 1,000 starts. Veterinarians reports show Churchill Downs’ rate was higher still last year, with 16 race-related fatalities translating as 2.73 per 1,000 starts.
Horse Racing Fatalities in Kentucky
This list shows race related fatalities in Kentucky. This does not reflect training incidents.
Scollay says the causes for the spike are "multifactorial," but Hancock suspects painkillers cause hurt horses to continue competing at greater risk of catastrophic injuries. Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Santa Anita parent The Stronach Group, says perceived pressure on trainers to fill fields with unsound horses is an issue, "We can't run from."
"Everyone knows that this could be them," Ritvo told The Paulick Report. "The Ringling Brothers Circus doesn't exist any more. SeaWorld has had to change. We have to come together and put strong protocols in place. ... There were things that were acceptable when I was an 18-year-old kid that aren't acceptable any more."
Hancock, whose grandfather founded the renowned Claiborne Farm in 1910, says veterinarians, drug companies and Churchill Downs have posed the primary obstacles to meaningful change.
“None of our powerful politicians in the state except for Andy (Barr) support this (bill) and the reason is because of Churchill Downs,” he said. “They’ve been against it for a number of reasons.”
Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery issued a statement Thursday afternoon that stopped short of endorsing the proposed reforms, but indicated a willingness to change by consensus.
“Integrity and maximizing the health and safety of our equine athletes are issues that go right to the core of everything we do at Churchill Downs," Flanery said. "We’re supportive of any improvements for horse racing that have broad support through collaboration with other industry leaders.”
The bill submitted Thursday would ban the use of all medications within 24 hours of a race, develop a standardized list of permitted and prohibited substances, establish a regulatory organization responsible for implementing an anti-doping program and require additional disclosure to breeding stock purchasers and the betting public.
“We think this bill would materially improve the safety of the sport, whether these incidents had happened or not,” Barr said Thursday afternoon. “Obviously, we’re all concerned. Everybody’s concerned about what’s gone on at Santa Anita. ...
“Our bill would make the sport safer. We’re very confident about that.”
Opposition to the bill centers on third-party regulation and restrictions on the use of Lasix, a drug designed to prevent bleeding that also acts as a diuretic. Alan Foreman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, testified last June that a move to eliminate Lasix would “force owners out of the business.”
“It's going to force, at horse sales that go on in many states throughout the country, a disclaimer that'll have to be put on horses that are sold that they are potential bleeders,” Foreman said, “... that they will not be able to treat that horse for racing, and that horse may not be able to race.
“Can you envision buying an automobile or product, where you're told at the time of the sale, that this product may have a problem and you're not going to be able to fix it in a way that you can use it? Are you going to buy that product?”
Those in favor of the bill, which includes Keeneland, the Breeders’ Cup and the Jockey Club, point to the lower equine fatality rates in countries with stricter drug policies and the inconsistent standards across various states.
“Different groups have raised different issues,” Barr said. “In my view, uniformity is very good for racetracks. The new generation of fans that are tech-savvy, they want uniformity. We need one set of rules for all of those racetracks.”
Source: Courier Journal
With wins in this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, American Pharoah has one more race to win to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Fans will pay close attention to Saturday's Belmont Stakes because they love a winner, but also because they love horses -- their beauty, athleticism and storied place in American culture.
But of the 25,000 thoroughbreds bred each year, very few will compete in the Triple Crown races so familiar to us. And tens of thousands of other horses of other breeds will never gain a spot in the limelight, and certainly not in the winner's circle of a major race.
Too often, these horses do not make the cut with their owners, or they are redirected from a legitimate enterprise -- racing, work or pleasure riding -- and sent into the horse slaughter trade.
Data from the U.S. and Canadian governments indicate that more than 100,000 American horses a year are exported and slaughtered in Canada or Mexico for human consumption, often after a long, typically harrowing journey that starts in an auction barn in a rural part of the United States.
It's an inhumane process from start to finish, and far from a dignified or appropriate end for a creature that did nothing wrong and which deserved much better than to be turned into a slab of meat for a foreign consumer.
The predatory horse slaughter industry doesn't euthanize old, sick horses. Precisely the opposite: Kill buyers, typically misrepresenting their intentions, purchase young and healthy horses and haul them away. At auctions, kill buyers often bid against legitimate horse owners and horse rescuers. Based on observations by our organization, most horses going to slaughter are in good condition and able to live healthy and productive lives.
Horses are transported long distances in overcrowded trailers and are badly injured or even killed during transit, according to documents obtained from the Department of Agriculture. Inside the bloody, panic-stricken environment of a slaughterhouse, their suffering only intensifies as horses endure repeated attempts to render them unconscious. When horse slaughter plants operated on U.S. soil before being rightfully shut down in 2007, it proved to be no better: The USDA documented horrific cruelty, including broken bones and eyeballs hanging from eye sockets by a thread of skin.
Although horse slaughter is so ruthless and inhumane, proponents of this grisly practice try to convince the public that slaughter is somehow "good" for horses that otherwise would be neglected. But it's actually the kill buyers who routinely abandon horses, especially at the border when they are rejected for slaughter. They are also responsible for a laundry list of cases of severe neglect.
Beyond being a predatory enterprise, the horse slaughter industry also endangers human health by peddling tainted meat. Horses in the United States are not raised with the intention of turning them into food, so they therefore may be treated with any of hundreds of drugs over the course of their lives, both illegal and legal, that may be toxic to humans if ingested. One example is phenylbutazone, or "bute." It is as common to horses as aspirin is to humans, and is banned by the FDA for use in any animal intended for human consumption.
Then consider the makeshift pharmacy of drugs used in race horses -- from cobra venom to cocaine, according to a 2012 New York Times investigation. Because of these serious food safety concerns, the European Union, among the largest consumer of the meat of American horses, recently suspended horse meat imports from Mexico, where 87 percent of horses slaughtered for export to the EU were of U.S. origin. EU authorities made the decision after a series of scathing audits that exposed a cluster of problems, including a lack of traceability of American horses and horrific suffering on U.S. soil and in Mexico.
Most Americans disapprove of slaughtering horses for food. A national survey of 1,008 people in 2012 found that 80 percent opposed slaughtering of horses for human consumption.
To end the slaughter of American horses and protect the food supply, legislators in Congress introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports Act. It not only would prevent this clandestine, greed-driven industry from operating in America, but would outlaw the export of horses across our borders for slaughter.
So while we turn our attention to the next race, let us remember that every horse, whether a Kentucky Derby winner or a pleasure horse, deserves our protection and lifetime care.
On Nov 18, 2004, the United States Senate passed by Unanimous Consent, to officially designate December 13th as National Day of the Horse. The founding intent was to encourage people to be mindful of the contribution of horses to the economy, history, and character of the United States.
As horse lovers and enthusiasts, please take time today to celebrate equines! In addition to taking your horse on a special ride or taking a fresh bag of carrots to your local horse rescue, you can also show your devotion and appreciation by helping both domestic and wild horses with your advocacy.
Click Here to learn more about how you can TAKE ACTION on the many important horse issues. And don't forget to share the information with your friends, family and colleagues. Horses need as many voices as possible to help protect them!
Text of The National Day of the Horse: U.S. Senate Resolution 452
December 2nd marks the beginning of "Giving Tuesday", an international campaign of giving back. There are many ways to give back to equines, including donating to rescue organizations and volunteering. Another valuable way to express gratitude for horses and burros is to TAKE ACTION and advocate for their protection and welfare.
There are important bills pending in Congress that are vital to the protection of equines, including legislation regarding Horse Slaughter, Horse Soring, Horse Transportation Safety, and Regulating Doping in the Horse Racing industry.
Please take the time to lend your voice to equines and contact your legislators! Click Here for the Action Alerts you can participate in. And take an extra step and share these issues with your friends, family, and colleagues!
Any equine rescue group will tell you, volunteers are priceless! Find a rescue organization with a mission you believe in and help their efforts. Helping out a horse / burro rescue doesn’t have to mean mucking stalls—you can help organizations remotely from the comfort of your home. Ask rescue groups how you can contribute your skills and talents, such as administrative or social media assistance.
Non-profit rescue groups rely on the generosity of equine lovers! Donating any amount of money helps organizations cover the cost of caring for the animals and keeps their operations running. Expenses for rescues include hay, supplemental feed, medical care, farrier work, and transport. Groups that are involved with cruelty seizures often incur exorbitant costs for treating animals that need extensive rehabilitation.
Donating, volunteering, and advocating are acts of kindness--and a necessity to help keep horses & burros well cared for and protected. On Giving Tuesday and all year round, THANK YOU to all those that spend their time and resources helping equines.
~ © Horses For Life Foundation ~
Racehorses are impressive, and it would be hard not to be awed by their power and grace. But there’s an important power they lack: unlike other athletes, they have no control over the drugs administered to them. That’s why groups such as The HSUS and HSLF and concerned legislators and citizens must be their voice.
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade heard that voice today during a hearing on H.R. 2012, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, a bill introduced by Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., to protect horses from pervasive race-day doping and other inhumane practices. (A companion bill, S. 973, is sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.). The legislation would safeguard both the animal and human athletes who participate in the sport, as well as help the racing industry’s reputation recover from bad publicity about cheating and unfair advantages.
Five of the six witnesses who testified before the subcommittee this morning—including a former Minnesota Racing Commissioner, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the founder and director of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle—spoke eloquently in favor of the bill. They explained that drugging is a serious problem that puts racehorses and jockeys at risk, and puts the integrity of the entire industry, including owners, trainers, and veterinarians, at risk as well. H.R. 2012 is a pro-animal, pro-industry measure that can wipe out the cheating by relying on the USADA, an independent body that has helped root out doping in other professional sports, to oversee and enforce new rules.
The sole opponent of the bill downplayed the existence of doping in horseracing, and argued for the status quo. But it’s clear that the status quo is not working, with an average of 24 horse deaths on racetracks around the country every week. There are 38 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions in the U.S., with about 100 racetracks, and each state sets up its own rules with respect to medicating of horses, while horses and their trainers routinely move between the states for races. Imagine if the NFL had different rules in each of the 32 professional football stadiums, or the NHL in 30 different hockey arenas? It would be chaos with no national standards or consistency.
Almost all other professional athletes are subject to uniform safety and anti-cheating regulations, whether it’s the NFL, the Olympics, or professional bicycling. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would require that any racetrack choosing to offer “simulcast” wagering, where the industry finds most of its profits, must first have an agreement with USADA. That agreement would include covering the costs of the anti-doping measures, with no additional cost to taxpayers. The bill calls for stiff penalties for cheating, including a “once and done” lifetime ban for the most severe doping violations, a “three strikes” rule for other serious violations, and suspensions for minor violations. It also bans race-day medication with a two-year phase-in to give the industry time to transition.
The rampant use of both legal and illegal drugs—not to get horses healthy, but to get them to the gate by masking painful injuries—consistently puts injured, sick, and worn out horses on the fast track to terrible injury or death during the race and after. The cheaters in the industry are known to experiment with anything that might give them an edge, including Viagra, blood-doping agents, stimulants, cancer drugs, cocaine, “pig juice,” and last year’s new craze—“frog juice,” an amino acid found naturally in certain species of frogs. “Frog juice” (dermorphin) is 40 times more powerful than morphine and is used to mask an injured horse’s pain. Doping injured horses to get them to race, when coupled with the recent trend of breeding horses for speed rather than durability, contributes to the increase in breakdowns, and to the epidemic of “castoffs” from the tracks who end up in the cruel horse slaughter pipeline.
As Chairman Lee Terry, R-Neb., pointed out at the start of the hearing, horseracing has been around for a long time—maybe almost as long as the deep human relationship with horses has existed. But if the industry continues to discount animal welfare and allow dishonest and misleading practices, it will continue to see its popularity erode. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act will create more confidence in the sport of racing and a level playing field for competitors, while creating a safe culture for equine athletes.
Source: Humane Society Legislative Fund
HELP BAN PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS FOR RACE HORSES!
Please contact your U.S. senators and representative and urge them to cosponsor & support The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (H.R. 2012 / S. 973). Click Here to take action!