The recent spate of horse deaths—37 since late December—at the famous Santa Anita racetrack outside of Los Angeles has put a national spotlight on serious animal welfare concerns with horseracing in the United States. The fact is, hundreds of horses suffer catastrophic breakdowns on racetracks each year in the United States.
The frequency of such fatalities is likely linked to the rampant use of drugs in US horseracing, and the corresponding lax oversight and regulation of performance-enhancing medications. The practice of injecting racehorses shortly before a race is banned in almost all other countries, since administering a cocktail of drugs can hide injuries, pain, inflammation, and other warning signs that precede catastrophic breakdowns.
Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY)—co-chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus—have introduced the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754) to address the industry’s continued reliance on drugs. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) have introduced the companion bill (S. 1820) in the Senate. The bill would create an independent anti-doping authority that would set uniform national standards, testing procedures, and penalties for the racing industry, replacing the patchwork and wildly inconsistent regulatory schemes that currently exist among 38 jurisdictions. Importantly, the bill would prohibit race-day medications, aligning US standards with those abroad.
As always, be sure to share our eAlert with family, friends and co-workers, and encourage them to contact their legislators as well. Thank you very much for your dedication to protecting animals!
Joanna Grossman, PhD
Equine Program Manager