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Update: Congressional Hearings on Horse Racing

Written by PETA | June 19, 2008

On behalf of thoroughbreds everywhere, a congressional hearing was held today to discuss horseracing—just weeks after PETA and tens of thousands of our members and supporters called for it. You can get a pretty cool play-by-play of the meeting here, but basically, the primary message was that the drugs are the problem—not just steroids but all drugs. Person after person said in testimony that if you get rid of the drugs, you get rid of a lot of problems in racing because horses who don’t have the strength to run won’t run and then won’t be bred. What we need is a zero-tolerance policy!

The hearing was full of moving testimony, including comments from a woman who runs CANTER, a thoroughbred rescue. She gets the horses who have been on all kinds of drugs their whole lives and said that when they go off drugs, they go through withdrawal periods that include hair loss, weight loss, and depression. One of my favorite quotes from the afternoon came from Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who said, “Greed has trumped the health of horses.” One person who was not so surprisingly absent was Big Brown’s trainer, Richard Dutrow. Given his rap sheet of drug infractions, I can’t say I was terribly surprised.

There will be at least one more hearing, possibly looking to consider legislation to appoint a federal racing commissioner so that all laws pertaining to racing will be uniform. The congressional committee also voted to admit PETA’s written testimony—which you can read here—into record.

You can respond to our latest horseracing action alert to let Congress know that you care about Eight Belles and all the less famous horses who face death on the track and get your voice heard! These hearings are a wonderful step in the right direction, and we need to continue pushing for progress.

Posted by Christine Dore

Commenting is closed.
  • val says:

    This blog is very old but if someone from PETA is reading this and I have presented this question many times to no answer why don’t you go after the way horse and cattle slaughter are being done instead of preventing it. I know i won’t hear a thing but had to post.

  • Geri C says:

    As a person who grw up in the racing industry I can tell you that not every thoroghbred race horse trainer abuses the animals in their care. I watched my grandparents and parents struggle to earn a decent living while taking on the owners and directors of tracks all over the country for the lack of accountability toward trainers who DID abuse and neglect their animals. The problem lies within the administrations of the tracks and the vets who are willing to medicate unneccessarily. Yea there are always cheaters. But the majority of horse trainers I knew would never sacrifice the well being of a horse or the jockey who rode it just to win a race. There are good people racing horses just as there a good people jumping and showing horses. To cast a blanket judgement over the entire industry is irresponsible. The focus should be placed on ensuring that all current rules and regulations are being followed at each and every track. There needs to be more attention paid to the officials who are refusing to punish drug and animal abusing trainers by banning them from the sport. That sends a clear message that thoroughbred racing will NOT tolerate any kind of foul play. Just an opinion from an old tracker who left the business because the officials were so corrupt.

  • penny banda says:

    i think like all of us thay should stop the DRUGS and WHIP USAGE. Eight bells that was that was so mean she was not fully depeloped in her legs so running at her top speed it broke both front legs

  • Connie Steinberg says:

    While it is true that the horse racing industry does need to be changed the focus needs to be before these horses are broken to ride. A horse should not be broken to ride before the age of 2 years a horses legs are not full developed before this time. Yet these horses are being raced at this young age leaving them prone to injuries would you let your 2 year old child run a marathon? Instead of placing blame on the jockeys tracks drugs or trainers we should place blame where it belongs on the owners and the public in general for if noone bet on or attended horse races there would not be any races. In conclusion the owners have control over what happens to their horses there needs to be an investigation to the injury records at the race tracks. You hear about the broken legs but not about the host of other injuries contributed to racing these horses too early.

  • danica says:

    Maria I love you!… she’s right. Peta… haha wow i’m at the point where I’m just gonna laugh at you guys. Kelley wow you just can’t accept the truth

  • cher says:

    “A recent Associated Press survey found that thoroughbred racetracks in the U.S. reported more than three horse deaths a day last year and 5000 since 2003 and the vast majority were put down after suffering devastating injuries on the track.” Anyone find this acceptable?? Look at this number!

  • lynda downie says:

    Great news! Thanks Peta for pushing for this hearing.

  • vi says:

    Elaine You can’t bring down the whole horse racing industry at once. I am sure that if it was possible today that PETA would love to shut down the whole industry. You have to take small steps sometimes and getting these animals to be seen less and less as just money making objects is a plus in the animal rights direction. Maria If you exploit a horse for money you are evil. A nonhuman cannot tell you it wants to race so making it race for your financial gain is EXPLOITATION no matter how much you claim to love these animals. If you really loved them you would let them live peacefully and do what they please run when they want to not when you demand them to.

  • Deb says:

    I sit somewhere in between Maria and the PETA people. I too am behind the scenes Maria and I see the baths and walks and care given. But the truth of the matter is behind that necessary daily routine the vets are injecting joints with cortisone to keep the horses running track conditions are designed for speed hard and fast to accomodate top trainers seeking track records for their top horses in hopes of record breaking breeding contracts for this newtype owner. see Big Browns owners who after their original trainer was arrested for mafia connections and milkshaking a horse switched to the leading trainer in regards to drug violations. Once horses start losing they drop down and fall through the cracks with the claiming ranks. Drugs and injections increase to keep them going in hopes that someone else will take them. Most of this is not a secret but well known on the backside with a small percentage controlling the atmosphere and the little guy afraid to speak up and getting brandished from the game. Kudos to the likes of Larry Jones Jack Van Berg Arthur Hancock and Jenine Shahadi for speaking up. On the flip side there are some really great caring individuals in the game. I adopted an injured one myself. In our barn several others have adopted horses to give them a good home. We put our money where our beliefs are. And as for PETA where were you guys when the claimer goes down during the week? Where were you when there was a slew of low level horses going down at Aqueduct in 2006 due to an unsafe track? The reality is that this is much like all other “big business” and this organization feeds off of media spotlights what a ripe time to collect donations!. Have you ever encouraged your horsey memberships to adopt one of these horses and give them a home? Where were you after the light died down from Barbaro?? You spent weeks crucifying Larry Jones when had you looked at his training record you would have seen it was spotless. And if you’d looked further at Eight Belles breeding line you may have focused on another aspect of this tragedy. her bloodlines scream accident waiting to happen. But your intensity on Larry Jones failed to highlight the Rick Dutrow tragedy that racing continues to let him train with his record or that reigning horse of the year Curlin is in the hands of a trainer banned for 6 months just 2 years ago. What a shame you go off on such a tangent that you miss some golden opportunities to focus on. Don’t get me wrong I do realize that Eight Belles death appears to have not happened in earnest as some good will come of this in part due to your public outcry. But I find it hard to think you care as much as you say when you were nonexistent over the past two years.

  • Maria says:

    Never in any of my years in horse racing have I ever abused hurt or even thought of hurting a horse. I can tell you that I make MUCH less money than all of you PETA members sitting comfortably at your computers. I have labored every day to keep the horses under my care safe and comfortable. And a good portion of my paycheck every month will go to various charities that I support. Including horse charities such as the unwanted horses coalition. I will work overtime for no pay to stay overnight at the racetrack to make sure the horses are okay. No horses have had to be euthanized under my care. All have been taken to loving homes after their careers. None have been taken to slaughterhouses and I regularly check them to make sure the haven’t. Why do you feel you have the right to speak against all the people who work so hard to keep this sport clean and safe? I would never hurt a horse to make a “fast buck” nor would I drug any of my horses. There are bad people in horse racing yes just as there are bad people on farms in hospitals and in PETA. But you should know that the majority would not STAND for the horses being hurt. I am one of them.

  • Elaine says:

    I’m surprised and extremely disappointed that PETA supposedly an animalrights organization would take such an inadequate position on horse racing. Racing should be BANNED not regulated. You don’t believe that dogracing should merely be regulated but nowhere here do you make it clear that your proposals are an interim measure only that PETA ultimately wants this industry brought to an end. First your suggested reforms would help horses somewhat during races but not entirely. There are other catastrophic physical conditions that kill racehorses on the track that are unrelated to your proposals. But most important what about the multitude of horses bred for racing who never make it to the track and those whose careers have ended and who are no longer “useful” for any racingrelated purpose? I’m sure you don’t actually believe that so many horses end up as wellcared for companion horses or in lovely retirement facilities. Much has been written by experts about the abusiveness of ALL aspects of the industry itself. Please take a courageous stand and call for an end to this horrific industry.

  • Carla says:

    NOT all are as pretty as a picture you paint Maria! Watch documentaries that are now just starting to surface to enlighten us nonhorse racing industry people!! Never have I ever read about horse racing in the sports section of the newspaper. And believe me thats the first section I read. Now it’s in every single day. They too are trying to promote an industry that has many flaws and in my opition needs to be fade away!!

  • kelly says:

    Maria is not delusional she is intentionally lying because she makes a fast buck off horse abuse. Abuse is rampant in the racing industry all kinds and those who work in it know this the best There are many however who have sold their soul for a fast buck under the table wages and a tolerance for drug problems that many PEOPLE in racing have. It’s a low life lifestyle and it attracts the same The horses pay the price httpdealwithitdaily.blogspot.com200805nodayoffrunningfortheirlives.html

  • Maria says:

    Again PETA…. We all know that horses are tested for drugs before and after races. Do you even know anything about the way horse racing works? About the people the medications the rules the regulations? The day after Eight Belles’ accident out you came to try to banish horse racing forever. The DAY after. That’s not enough time for research don’t you think? Have you been to a racetrack to talk to officials and trainers? Seen a racehorse being cared for? Do you have any video evidence of a horse being drugged or “whipped to death” behind the scenes as you say they do? No because if you went to see one all you would see is grooms washing down horses walking them and feeding them. You would see vets giving checkups and farriers checking feet. Trainers discussing health plans for horses and routinely looking over their horses to make sure they’re alright. All the while treating them with love and dignity. If a horse is in no condition to race they are scratched taken out of the race. A horse with chronic health problems will be retired. Most horses in slaughter are NOT thoroughbreds by the way they are quarter horses. I know this because I researched it BEFORE writing it. I’ve been in the horse racing industry for 20 years. How many years have you been in it?

  • Ron says:

    It was so enlightening to hear Congress today on horse racing. Hats off to those in the racing industry who had the courage to come forward with the truths about the abuse done to race horses. Although horse slaughter was minimally spoken of at least it was mentioned. Thousands of race horses got to slaughter every year right off the track. The kill buyers make weekly visits to pick up the horses that are of no further use to racing and not only the injured. Those horses who are no longer making money for the owners…and even if the owner decides he does not like the horse anymore. These race horses who give their all in racing join the thousands of other healthy American horses who are slaughtered every year. Brutal and barbaric. Now maybe Congress will listen up to horse salughter and the ban on horse slaughter bill will finally be passed. It has been on the books for too many years. Thank God the times they are afinally changing for our innocent horses.

  • Holly says:

    This is wonderful news. More work needs to be done to stop horses from being sold then sent out of the country for an awful death at the slaughter houses. The problem horses have does not stop at the track… Great Job Guys Keep up the Good Work! people care… Go Vegan…