The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) formally announced its endorsement of the John Stringer Rainey Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, and pledges to advance initiatives that aim to protect horses throughout the state.
In 2015 the SAFE Act was renamed in honor of John Stringer Rainey, the late South Carolina philanthropist and former director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. If passed into federal law, the bill would permanently end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption in the United States and abroad. It also amends Title 18 of the U. S. Code by making it illegal to “possess, ship, transport, purchase, sell, deliver, or receive any horse with the intent that it is to be slaughtered for human consumption,” with penalties that include fines and imprisonment.
In addition to its commitment to the health and safety of thoroughbreds, aftercare is also a top priority of the PHBA, according to president Greg Newell. “We are doing everything we can to help place horses who reach the end of their first or second career, whether they have finished racing or breeding,” said Newell. “Our Anti-Slaughter Committee, chaired by Kate Goldenberg, has done a wonderful job addressing what can be done to help our equine athletes.”
PHBA Board member Hank Nothhaft, also a member of the Anti-Slaughter Committee, said that endorsement of the SAFE Act was something the organization wanted to do to be a positive force towards improving the industry. The fact that many unwanted thoroughbred broodmares are found in slaughter pens proved to be a call to action. “There was unanimous support from the PHBA Board to mitigate the slaughter of broodmares,” said Nothhaft. “Older broodmares, especially, are not attractive candidates for equestrian activities, and thus they are not as easy to rehome as younger horses. This has really pushed us from sitting on the bench towards getting into the fray.”
“The Anti-Slaughter Committee was formed in order to protect our broodmares, stallions, and Pennsylvania-bred racehorses that end up in the slaughter pipeline, or in bad situations,” explained Jennifer Poorman of the PHBA. “What is coming from it is so much more.” Poorman said that the Committee has a goal to create a broodmare retirement program to address the need of unwanted mares.
“Our hope is to form a non-profit within our organization, to assist our breeders when the time comes when their broodmare can no longer breed,” said Poorman. “We’ll be looking to build a network of partner farms willing to assist with retirement from breeding, whether it’s a second career or permanent retirement due to physical limitations. “We’re also creating a campaign to educate our breeders about responsible aftercare, along with providing a network of resources for our breeders to turn to at any point they find themselves in need of assistance,” she said.
“No one has been looking out for the broodmares,” said Nothhaft. “There’s lots of enthusiasm for this project moving forward.” Nothhaft said one reason why the SAFE Act hasn’t gained traction towards passage since 2019 in Congress is because large agricultural interests fear that anti-slaughter legislation would bring undue attention to their industries, which involve large-scale slaughter of animals for food.
“The SAFE Act is one of three items we are working on,” said Brian Sanfratello, executive secretary of the PHBA. “The others are Pennsylvania-specific anti-slaughter legislation, similar to the SAFE Act, that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone who causes or transports a horse into the slaughter pipeline, as well as a PHBA code of ethics, with sanctions for anyone who is a member or registers horses with our organization and is found to be in violation of the Pennsylvania anti-slaughter measures.”
After almost a decade of efforts to legislatively reform the U.S. horse racing industry at the federal level, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) has claimed victory. The passage of the bill marks a historic moment for U.S. racing, which will protect racehorses from doping abuse and improve racetrack safety standards across the nation.
The bicameral and bipartisan legislation, H.R.1754 and S.4547, was supported by almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate. Leading the bill in the House of Representatives were Congressmen Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY). Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were the lead sponsors in the U.S. Senate.
The House approved H.R.1754 by voice vote in September 2020. It was then passed to the Senate where it was approved to be included in the massive final FY21 spending package. The bill was officially signed into federal law by the President on Sunday evening, December 27th.
By law, the latest HISA can go into effect is July 1, 2022. The first step is the finalization of the "Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority", comprised of nine board positions. Five of the members will be independent seats and four seats will represent the racing industry. Two standing committees will also be established; an anti-doping and medication control committee and a racetrack safety committee. The chair of the anti-doping and medication control committee will be an independent member and the chair of the safety committee will be an industry member.
The Authority is tasked with proposing rules, which then needs to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC will review programs developed by the Authority, and once ratified, they will go into effect.
With the FTC acting as the umbrella agency for HISA, all proposed rules will require a period for public comment. This opportunity is important, especially as the rules may include the restriction of the use of the riding crop, which would fall within the in-race and workout safety category. As with doping, horse whipping regulations currently vary across state lines.
The passage of HISA truly marks a new era for U.S. racing, so please stay tuned for further alerts as proposed rules may be offered as early as the first quarter of 2021.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) CEO Travis Tygart expressed excitement this week at the prospect of his agency taking over drug testing and enforcement for racing across the country as part of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that is making its way through Congress.
Tygart said the sport will benefit from the standardization of rules and testing that USADA will bring to the table. “The value in sport is that no one knows the outcome, and you can watch it and have the value of uncertainty,” Tygart told HRN. “And it’s based on skill and talent, not covert drugs that are being used to win.” While much of the racing world has responded positively to the prospect of change in a sport that has long struggled with alleged drug cheats, finding a standard set of procedures to benefit all parties has proven difficult.
Some groups have publicly opposed the bill, including the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and some harness-racing organizations. But Tygart said they have not disputed the need for uniform processes and that the USADA has spoken to the HBPA. When the bill was first announced, the NHBPA made it clear they felt excluded from the process and opposed some elements of the bill, including a Lasix ban.
Tygart said horsemen he has talked to have expressed nearly unanimous support for USADA’s takeover of testing and enforcement, including some who have reached out anonymously or covertly. “You need good rules, good independent input and robust implementation,” Tygart said. “That’s when you actually have a chance. We believe, and I think we’ve showed it with out athletes, you can be successful turning the tide and allowing clean athletes to fulfill their obligation to compete clean.”
Founded in 2000, the USADA administers drug testing and enforcement for organizations that include the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. As for the enforcement itself, Tygart said USADA will be the “best friend” of those who follow the drug rules and adapt to the guidelines, which will be standardized across most states. But he acknowledged that some will get caught up in enforcement very quickly.
“What you hope is a fair opportunity for people to change their behavior,” Tygart said. “Whether UFC or our Olympic program, no one wants to send lambs to the slaughter and not be a fair and ample opportunity to change behavior, adapt to the new rules. “That said, if people don’t, consequences will be what the rules establish. And I do think that there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit in the sense that having uniform laboratory standards is something that’s so basic and simple.”
Tygart also touched on some of the complications for testing horses as opposed to the human athletes USADA normally polices. The NHBPA had expressed concern over USADA's lack of experience with horses. Tygart said the group anticipates some issues but, overall, a smooth transition. “Frankly, collecting from a horse that’s trained by whistle to pee is sometimes easier than waiting for a marathoner that just finished and is dehydrated,” Tygart said.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (S.4547) is making its way through the Senate, where it has bipartisan support. The House version already has passed, and the Senate version is awaiting action by the Commerce Committee.
Source: Horseracing Nation
MONTH / yEAR