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Excessive Breeding and Overpopulation

According to a study published in the Journal of Animal Science in December 2010, more than 100,000 unwanted horses are born in the U.S. per year, and approximately 21 percent of these horses are thoroughbreds. Another estimated 10,000 are cast off by the racing industry when they fail to turn a profit and are sent to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico every year. Thousands more are abandoned, neglected, and abused.

Nonprofit equine rescue groups simply can’t keep up with the number of horses who desperately need care. Emergency rescue and retirement facilities do not have the capacity or resources to handle this crisis. In 2010, researchers at the University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine determined that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations have the capacity to hold only 13,400 horses a year.

Despite this, the racing industry continues to churn out nearly 30,000 thoroughbred foals each year. In fact, many winning horses are removed from racing when they are 3 years old and are used for breeding.

Excessive breeding without adequate retirement provisions is a lethal cycle. To correct this critical problem, PETA has proposed that The Jockey Club adopt our Thoroughbred 360 Life Cycle Fund, which would require a $360 retirement fee, $360 ownership transfer fee, and stallion or broodmare registration fees of $360. If adopted, the fund would generate $20 million annually to be used for the appropriate retirement of thoroughbred racehorses.

In addition to churning out more horses than the U.S. is equipped to care for, owners are breeding horses earlier and more often than in the past. Sky-high stud fees mean that appealing horses are pulled from the track after a few good showings, with no consideration for their overall health. Additionally, rampant drug use masks debilitating conditions and vulnerabilities during a horse’s career, which increases the possibility that genetically weak horses will end up in the breeding pool and pass on those same weak traits.

Once horses are in the breeding pool, they are used over and over again. In April 2011, PETA undercover investigators captured video footage inside the breeding barns at Darley America in Kentucky, one of the world’s most expensive thoroughbred breeding facilities.

We documented a factory assembly-line regimen in which stallions are goaded to “cover” more than a hundred mares each in a breeding season. When breeding horses are no longer wanted in the U.S., they may be sent to auction or even shipped to Japan, where more than 90 percent of all horses end up in slaughterhouses.