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
The effort to bring uniform standards to protect racehorses passed three major milestones this week. One hundred and fifty Members of Congress have signed on as co-sponsors to the Horseracing Integrity Act (HIA), which is more than one third of the House of Representatives. Besides the strong Congressional support, 135 of the industry's leading trainers support the bill. Additionally, more than 53,000 people have signed a petition from the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI) calling for passage of the bill.
"The industry needs the Horseracing Integrity Act," said Shawn Smeallie, executive director of the Coalition of Horse Racing Integrity. "While various tracks and organizations have announced reforms addressing horse injuries, the industry still suffers from a lack of a national system to regulate itself. Passage of the HIA solves that."
The HIA is a horse-first bill that would create a private, independent national horse racing anti-doping authority responsible for developing and administering a strict anti-doping and medication control program. The CHRI is confident that passage of HIA will strengthen the horse racing industry by reforming industry drug use and showing Americans that the health of racehorses is a top priority.
The new anti-doping authority would be governed by a board of six individuals with deep horse racing expertise and seven individuals from the USADA.USADA is the benchmark for drug testing and enforcement of human athletes, including the nation's Olympians, and will help ensure racehorses are free from performance-enhancing drugs during racing and training creating a safer environment for horses and jockeys.
The horse racing industry is presently regulated by 38 different racing jurisdictions, which limits regulators' effective management of the many issues involved in the health and safety of racehorses.
The HIA does not establish a Washington-based regulatory authority, but rather creates an independent body, the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority under the oversight of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The new anti-doping authority would be governed by a board of six individuals with deep horse racing expertise and seven individuals from the USADA. USADA is the benchmark for drug testing and enforcement of human athletes, including the nation's Olympians, and will help ensure racehorses are free from performance-enhancing drugs during racing and training creating a safer environment for horses and jockeys.
"Clearly, we need to do more to protect horses and improve equine health," said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action. "And the Horseracing Integrity Act will protect horses by creating the first truly national set of rules on drug usage and testing to ensure that horses are running free of performance-enhancing drugs. The health of the horse needs to come first, which is what this legislation does."
"Public confidence in our sport has been shaken, and we find ourselves in a pivotal moment in horse racing's long history in the U.S.," said Kelly Summers Wietsma, president of Equisponse. "That is why this growing list of 52 industry-leading trainers, collectively with more than 50,000 wins and 22 North American year-end Outstanding Trainer awards, have signed a letter supporting the HIA."
These trainers are in addition to the 100+ trainers, 800+ owners/breeders and 250+ industry professionals who have joined the Water Hay Oats Alliance, which is a founding member of the CHRI, and the leading opponent against the use of race-day medications.
"Horse racing in the United States has the most liberal drug rules among all international jurisdictions, especially when it comes to race-day medication," said Staci Hancock, co-founder and the managing member of the Water Hay Oats Alliance. "We need federal legislation to bring national uniformity to state-run racing jurisdictions, which is why WHOA and its members support the Horseracing Integrity Act."
The Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity represents a diverse group of racing organizations, racetracks, owner and breeder associations, and animal welfare groups that support adoption of a national, uniform standard for drug and medication rules in horse racing. For more information and to read a copy of the proposed legislation, visit HorseRacingIntegrity.com. To support the Horseracing Integrity Act by signing the petition, visit HorseRacingIntegrity2019.com
Source: The Jockey Club