As they've done in years past, The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) officially opposes the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754/S.1820). They also oppose legislation that would end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption (The SAFE Act). Joining them in opposing both of these vital equine welfare bills is The American Veterinary Medical Association.
On March 5, 2020 the AQHA released the following statement:
The Horseracing Integrity Act (HR 1754) was introduced into the United State House of Representatives in March 2019. The bill requires a “uniform anti-doping and medication control program to be developed and enforced by an independent horseracing anti-doping and medication control authority.”
While the American Quarter Horse Association is strongly committed to the welfare of the racehorse and supports industry reform to improve horse safety, the Association opposes the Horseracing Integrity Act in its current form.
AQHA is joined in opposition to this bill by other leading industry associations, such as the Association of Racing Commissioners International, the North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the United States Trotting Association.
Of particular concern to AQHA is the proposed elimination of race-day use of the medication furosemide, commonly known as Lasix, which is used to mitigate the occurrence of exercised-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH) in racehorses. Eliminating this effective therapeutic medication while lacking an alternative therapy would leave equine athletes vulnerable to serious medical conditions.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners currently supports Lasix as the only medication allowed to be administered on race day, although the association’s official position on HR 1754 is “monitor” due to “the greater goal of attaining uniformity of racing medication in the US.”
“The AAEP has long held a position that, at this time, Lasix is the only available method of management of EIPH,” says Dr. Kathleen Anderson, an AAEP past president, practicing veterinarian and expert witness who presented to Congress. “Until such time as there is a better or alternative approach, AAEP backs the use of race-day Lasix administration for the welfare of the horse.”
Dr. Anderson explains the use of Lasix as a preventive measure and suggests thinking of it as the equivalent to wearing a seatbelt in a car, as it either prevents or minimizes damage that might be caused by EIPH.
“You put a seatbelt on, and it protects you from possible car crash injuries,” Dr. Anderson said. “Lasix prevents horses from possible effects related to EIPH. It’s not meant to be a ‘vaccine,’ which would prevent future EIPH events. In this case, we believe that by administering it, we’re not inoculating it, we’re trying to manage the horses’ respiratory health by either preventing it or minimizing it. The consequences of EIPH without management or control can typically result in long-term respiratory health issues.”
There are numerous scientific studies providing evidence that the administration of Lasix improves the welfare of racehorses. According to research done by the ARCI Scientific Advisory Group, there is no current science linking the use of Lasix to musculoskeletal issues that may be a contributing case in catastrophic breakdowns.
In addition, this bill, unlike current regulations, does not address breed-specific rules that address the specific needs of the American Quarter Horse.
HR 1754 is also lacking details about funding sources that would sustain the proposal.
A review of 2018 post-race testing conducted by ARCI showed that 99.4 percent of the 258,920 tests conducted that year proved to be compliant with the rules of racing. Of those with violations, the vast majority were overages of therapeutic medications. Only 0.04 percent of all tests were found to have Class 1 or 2 substances (those most likely to the greatest effect on performance or those that might be considered “doping.”)
AQHA is dedicated to industry reform and works closely with international, national and state racing organizations and commissions to evaluate protocols that allow for uniform medication rules and strengthened deterrents to performance-enhancing drugs. This group includes the Association of Racing Commissioners International and Racing Medication and Testing Consortium, which are working to create uniformity in medication rules.
Among the work AQHA has assisted on is out-of-competition testing efforts, the use of hair as a testing mechanism and beta-2 antagonist bans. In the five years since many of these rules have gone into effect in the majority of Quarter Horse racing jurisdictions, reported injuries in American Quarter Horses have dropped 16 percent.
AQHA is a strong supporter of reform and uniformity in racing, but for these reasons cannot support HR 1754 in its current form.
Tom Persechino, executive director of competition and breed integrity for the American Quarter Horse Association, released the following letter in support of Oklahoma Rep. Skye McNiel's bill to allow horse slaughter facilities in Oklahoma:
Representative Skye McNiel
Oklahoma State Legislature
2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 433B Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Dear Representative McNiel,
The American Quarter Horse Association continues to increase its role in public policy and advocacy concerning the American Quarter Horse and all horses. In addition to increasing advocacy of the American Quarter Horse in public policy, AQHA continues to keep the horse as its foremost concern by providing programs to members promoting the health and wellbeing of their America Quarter Horses.
AQHA believes it is the owner’s responsibility and, ultimately, their choice regarding decisions concerning the welfare of their horse(s). The Association encourages responsible ownership practices and management that will reduce the number of unwanted horses and recognizes that federally regulated, humane processing of unwanted horses is a necessary aspect of the equine industry because it provides a humane euthanasia alternative for horses that might otherwise continue a life of discomfort and pain, or inadequate care or abandonment. This position was supported in a United States Government Accountability Office study that was released in June of 2011, entitled “Horse Welfare Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter.”
Obviously, the option of horse slaughter is one that is unthinkable by many horse owners, and AQHA respects these owners’ beliefs. However, AQHA’s Public Policy Committee and ultimately Board of Directors continues to advocate that for certain horses, federally regulated processing provides a humane alternative to additional suffering or possibly dangerous situations. Over the years, AQHA has actively supported legislation to ensure the safe and humane transportation of horses that are bound for processing facilities and backed guidelines for how horses must be treated at facilities. The Association also supports other choices for unwanted horses, including euthanasia by injection, life in an equine retirement facility, donation to a college or university, or other options.
The Association has been monitoring Oklahoma’s SB 375 and HB 1999. Should Oklahoma’s Legislature pass these bills and the Governor sign them into law, given AQHA’s previously stated position of support for the option of processing, the Association would not (nor are there any plans to) move either the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show or the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show from Oklahoma.
Since 1976, the AQHA World Show has had a successful history in Oklahoma, and we are currently in negotiations with Oklahoma’s State Fair Park and Oklahoma Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to extend our relationship. The Youth World Show contract was recently extended in Oklahoma, and exhibitors continue to tell us how much the enjoy coming to the state to compete for a coveted world title.
I hope the above information is helpful to you and accurately characterizes AQHA’s position relative to humane, federally regulated horse processing, and the Association’s relationship with the state and city of Oklahoma City.
If at any time I can answer questions for you, please do not hesitate to contact this office.
Executive Director of Competition and Breed Integrity
KEEP HORSE SLAUGHTER, AND ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT, OUT OF OKLAHOMA
On Nov. 18, President Obama signed the fiscal year 2012 agriculture appropriations bill into law. Absent was a rider that previously had prohibited U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection of horsemeat for human consumption. That backdoor rider was placed in previous versions of the ag bill and ended domestic horse slaughter.
AQHA recognizes that the processing of unwanted horses is currently a necessary aspect of the equine industry, because it provides a humane euthanasia alternative for horses that might otherwise continue a life of discomfort and pain, inadequate care or abandonment. -- Tom Persechino
AQHA does not favor processing as a way of dealing with unwanted horses, and strongly supports euthanasia by injection, equine retirement facilities, donation to a university or simply being turned out to pasture. AQHA encourages responsible ownership practices to reduce the number of unwanted horses.
AQHA also has supported legislation to ensure the safe and humane transportation of horses that are bound for slaughter and backed guidelines for how horses must be treated at the facilities. While that might appear to be pro-slaughter, it’s not that simple.
One of the major issues in the slaughter debate centers on personal property rights. AQHA believes that allowing animal-rights advocates to determine how we manage our horses opens the door to letting them put other limits on what we can or cannot do with our horses (i.e. transportation, trail riding, racing, showing and overall care). AQHA respects the right of horse owners to manage their personal property as they choose, so long as the welfare of the horse is paramount.
These issues were underscored in a report released by the Government Accountability Office last June. The GAO found that the unintended consequences included a sizeable negative economic impact on the horse industry and incidents of inhumane treatment of horses as a result of the cessation of domestic horse slaughter.
These arguments are not considered by animal rights groups, which continue to lobby Congress to pass legislation that would eliminate domestic horse processing or transportation to Canada or Mexico for horse processing.
It has always been AQHA’s fear that by ending U.S. horse processing, bottom-end, unemployable and unwanted animals would become neglected and place an undue burden on state and local governments. That is what the GAO report revealed - and what is unacceptable to AQHA.
Nobody yet knows if a processing facility will open in the United States. The three horse processing plants that existed are now closed and state laws prohibit them from re-opening. However, unless and until a domestic horse processing facility opens, the welfare of the horse will be in jeopardy. -- Tom Persechino
Horses will travel longer distances to facilities outside the U.S., and once there, their care and handling is subject to some other country’s laws ... or lack thereof. AQHA is about the horse and about educating owners on options they have. It is not about sensationalizing a very emotional issue.
Tom Persechino is the American Quarter Horse Association’s executive director of competition and breed integrity and oversees AQHA’s public policy efforts. He lives in Amarillo.