Santa Anita Park: Push for Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 grows stronger after 60 horse deaths on the track

The Humane Society of the United States has consistently called for critical reforms in the racing industry. Preventable deaths and injuries are too common on the Santa Anita Park race track and it’s time to take action through the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act


                            Santa Anita Park: Push for Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 grows stronger after 60 horse deaths on the track

The recent shocking horse fatalities at the Santa Anita Park has sparked outrage in the animal welfare community. Two horses were euthanized in a matter of four days after suffering from serious injuries on the track just recently, totaling the number to a horrifying 60 since 2018, a probe revealed. However, it isn't just Santa Anita that needs to be looked at, say experts on the subject.

In 2017, the United States had one of the highest rates of fatal racing injuries at 1.61 per 1,000 starts measured over approximately 305,929 starts, according to a report by The Jockey Club. There are 38 pari-mutuel racing jurisdictions in the U.S. that contain about 100 racetracks, including Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse and Standardbred racing. Currently, there is minimal of out-of-competition testing in the sport, which is widely accepted as an effective tool to catch cheaters who dope racehorses, says the Humane Society of the United States.

Too many American racehorses are currently also administered race-day drugs to enhance their performance, a practice banned by nearly all other countries. If a horse needs drugs in order to race, that horse should not be on the track, the Society says. These drugs were considered to be banned back in 1980 but it didn't go through. Instead, each state was allowed to make its rules on them, which brings them to the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, which they say, will solve this human-animal conflict. 

In this Thursday, March 28, 2019, file photo, a few horses and riders are seen on the track while members of the California Horse Racing Board weigh new safety and medication rules in the wake of 22 horse deaths at Santa Anita Park, during a meeting at the track in Arcadia, Calif. The Stronach Group are the owners of Santa Anita Park that was the site of 23 horse deaths over a span of three months. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers, File)

"There’s too much heartbreak on the nation’s racetracks. The Humane Society of the United States has consistently called for critical reforms in the racing industry to protect the welfare of its equine competitors.  Preventable deaths and injuries are too common and it’s time to take action through passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act , H.R.1754.   While all eyes were focused on Maryland’s Pimlico Racecourse in anticipation of the Preakness last weekend, there was a death during a race  last Friday at Pimlico, and on the same day on the other side of the country Santa Anita saw its 24th. On Monday, a horse was euthanized due to an injury he suffered while racing at Santa Anita on Sunday. These incidents are not isolated and will recur until industry reforms and regulations are implemented and enforced," they told MEA World Wide in a statement. 

"This bill will create a national and uniform medication policy, increase out of competition testing of racehorses, and ban race-day medication. Horses should race based on their natural abilities and should be free of pain masking and performance-enhancing drugs,"  Valerie Pringle, Campaign Manager of Equine Protection said. 

Elizabeth Zarkos, Ph.D. President and Founder of Hanaeleh, an Orange County Horse Rescue organization agrees. "Passing the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 would go a long way to help stop the doping of horses on the track," she said. She then went on to say, "Stop the racing of two-year-olds. These horses should not be racing at this young age. Horses should not be able to be raced until three or even four years of age. Require medical records to follow the horse. Currently, medical records do not have to be released to the new owner- this means that horses with injuries can be sold without the new owner knowing," she said. 

But, most importantly they need to start treating these horses as more than just collateral damage. "The horse racing industry also has to start acknowledging that these deaths are not acceptable, and, instead of defending these fatal injuries as a by-product the sport, the industry should be proactive in working to find a way to eliminate them. The rescues and animal rights groups should not be the ones leading the cause to make racing safer for horses- instead, the owners and the trainers- the people who claim that they love horses- should be the ones doing everything possible to eliminate these deaths," she said. 

MEAWW had previously reported that drugs, weather and racing horses too young contributed to the rise in fatalities. 

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