Racetrack Reforms Go National After Santa Anita Horse Deaths

Published by Zachary Toliver.

It took the breakdowns and deaths of 23 horses at Santa Anita, but PETA was sure that the racing industry could change if it wanted to. And now, we’re finally seeing progress.

Under pressure from PETA and members of Congress, a coalition of major racetracks around the country has agreed to follow Santa Anita’s lead and phase out the racing drug Lasix. This follows Santa Anita’s new rules that include the most significant changes in a generation to end cruelty in horse racing. At PETA’s request, the Los Angeles district attorney (DA) is investigating trainers and their practices that put horses at risk. Last week, the DA announced that she’s creating a special task force of deputy district attorneys to handle the investigations.

This ban will impact horses who are forced to run in some of the country’s biggest races, including the Triple Crown races—the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The New York Racing Association, Churchill Downs Incorporated, and the Stronach Group—as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, and Oaklawn parks—have all agreed to phase out the same-day use of Lasix in 2-year-old horses by 2020. By 2021, the same ban will apply to all horses in stakes races.

Lasix—a diuretic that causes dehydration and electrolyte loss—is given to horses supposedly to stop bleeding in the lungs. But it also causes increased urination and makes horses lighter and able to run faster. In the U.S. and Canada—but nowhere else in the world—it’s administered to nearly all horses on the days that they race. Trainers and horse owners are clinging tightly to this abusive practice, even as they’ve had to agree to end others.

You are now dealing with a public that has become intolerant of broken bones, whipping, drugging, and death.

The Lasix ban is an excellent first step in what must be an ongoing overhaul of racing rules nationwide.

PETA thanks tracks that are now leading the way in reform and urges them to ban Lasix for all races, in addition to taking five more immediate steps as a start: Ban all medications in the two weeks before a race, ban trainers with multiple medication violations, mandate complete public transparency regarding injury and medication records, end whipping, and switch to high-quality synthetic tracks.

Churchill Downs Incorporated Promises Change

PETA made these demands at the Churchill Downs Incorporated annual meeting this week. We asked the board quite bluntly, “Will Churchill Downs Incorporated be a leader in reforming racing or allow horses to continue to die?

In addition to outlining the five immediate steps that the racing industry must take, PETA argued for the installation of pop-up screen software so that bettors can donate to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance when cashing winning tickets and for a substantial increase in donations to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

The racing company, which owns Churchill Downs and several other tracks, responded that it is working on new rules now and would continue to meet with us as they’re implemented. Stay tuned for updates.

Horses Need Your Help

On average, more than three horses die every day on racetracks in the U.S. Using PETA’s action form, please urge your congressional representative to support the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would impose stricter regulations on drug use in racing and help protect these animals from abuse.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind