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.
AFTER CALIFORNIA HORSE RACING BOARD REPORT ON SANTA ANITA, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE JUDY CHU CALLS FOR STRONGER PROTECTIONS FOR HORSES
On Monday, the California Horse Racing Board released their annual report on horse racing in California for the 2019 calendar year. The report showed that nearly 90% of fatalities in 2019 were associated with pre-existing, undetected stress fractures. It also found that the dirt track at Santa Anita was responsible for four times as many fatalities as the turf track, despite holding only 30% more races. Among the report’s recommendations for curbing horse deaths are better veterinary record keeping, stricter regulations on the use of all medications, use of diagnostic imaging before a race, and a prohibition on racing on tracks deemed to be unsafe due to weather conditions, like the dirt track at Santa Anita. Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), who represents Santa Anita, issued the following statement:
Finally, we cannot rely on a patchwork of regulations to solve this problem. Regulations recommended by the CHRB could save lives for horses outside of California as well, but because we lack a federal body to oversee horse racing, each state is free to set their own standards, contributing to America’s higher rate of horse deaths compared to other countries. That is why I was encouraged by last week’s hearing for H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act in the Energy and Commerce Committee. This legislation, which would establish a federal Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority to standardize safety and medication standards across the United States, is needed more than ever.”
Bill creating new horse-racing authority amid track deaths draws opposition from Kentucky Derby owner, Churchill Downs
The bipartisan Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R.1754), which will eradicate horse doping, has the majority of U.S. Representatives supporting it, but Monmouth Park and Churchill Downs object to the bill.
A Hall of Fame jockey and animal-welfare advocates were among those pushing this week for a bill that would establish a new authority overseeing U.S. horse racing, but the bipartisan Horseracing Integrity Act also is drawing flak from Kentucky Derby owner Churchill Downs Inc. and other industry players.
“Right now, there are almost no controls on what therapeutics horses are given while in training,” retired jockey Chris McCarron said at a House subcommittee’s hearing.
“The status quo — with 38 different states governing one industry with 38 different sets of rules and penalties and numerous different laboratories doing the testing using different standards — is just not working,” added McCarron, who rode the winner at two Kentucky Derbies, as he backed the legislation.
The bill aims to create a new anti-doping authority, and it has found support amid a rash of horse deaths at racetracks last year. For example, 38 horses died in 2019 at Southern California’s Santa Anita Park, which has instituted drug-use reforms. The legislation looks likely to pass in the House, given that more than half of the Democratic-led chamber’s members have signed on as co-sponsors of it.
But top officials from New Jersey’s Monmouth Park Racetrack and the Association of Racing Commissioners International spoke out against the Horseracing Integrity Act at Tuesday’s hearing, and Churchill Downs Inc. also voiced its concerns with the bill.
“I’m opposed to federal legislation. I don’t think federal legislation should be in our business,” said Dennis Drazin, Monmouth Park’s chairman and CEO, speaking to members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee.
“And although I’ve been opposed to federal legislation, I want to be part of the solution — not part of the problem — in preventing this. I’ve worked hard with my colleagues on the NTRA special committee to come up with comprehensive solutions for you,” Drazin added, referring to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The bill “duplicates a framework that’s already in existence,” said Edward Martin, ACRI’s president and CEO, during the Capitol Hill hearing. “The goal of trying to get to uniformity is a very good goal. We believe there’s substantial uniformity, but not total uniformity, with regard to the testing in the labs. The labs are accredited, and we think you can achieve uniformity by adopting the ARCI model rules.”
“We will continue to implement meaningful procedures at Churchill Downs that address the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes, and this commitment extends to working with industry leaders and regulators,” the company added.
The Horseracing Integrity Act was the top focus of Churchill Downs Inc.’s Washington lobbying efforts last year, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of disclosures. The bill was reintroduced in the House a year ago by Republican Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky and Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko of New York. They’ve been rolling out versions of the legislation since 2015.
Barr told the subcommittee on Tuesday that his bill will “advance the safety, the integrity and the international competitiveness of the sport.”
“This idea that federal legislation is the wrong way to go — if you go back to The Jockey Club minutes from the 1970s and the 1980s, when they were discussing medication reform, they were saying back then that we don’t need federal legislation. The efforts to reform the industry by the industry itself — the efforts through interstate compacts — have failed,” the GOP congressman said.
The Jockey Club, an organization that maintains the breed registry for thoroughbreds, is part of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, a group that supports Barr and Tonko’s bill. The measure has an “excellent” chance of becoming law, said The Jockey Club’s president and chief operating officer, Jim Gagliano. It’s expected to pass the House with “strong support,” and there is “also strong support in the Senate with 24 senators co-sponsoring the bill,” he said.
“This bill does not create new federal bureaucracy but rather an independent and private authority to manage racehorse medications, which should be a positive with the Trump administration,” Gagliano added.
Source: Market Watch