An untold number of horses running on U.S. racetracks have been shot up with painkillers, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications, and performance-enhancing drugs to mask their injuries. Owners and trainers routinely risk the animals’ safety. And often, the horse pays with his or her life.
Studies show that the vast majority of them had pre-existing injuries. These magnificent animals die in the dirt behind a screen hastily thrown up so that racegoers can’t see the true cost of this so-called “sport.”
On the eve of the Kentucky Derby, PETA is asking 15 of the top gambling venues, including Caesar’s Palace and the Bellagio, to release injury reports on all horses entered in that race.
In a letter sent this morning, PETA points out that sportsbooks that simulcast horse races are regulated under the Interstate Horseracing Act, but their failure to disclose injuries and medication records—aside from the race-day drug Lasix—is unfair to bettors and dangerous to horses.
“Unlike the NFL, which issues injury reports, there is no policy in horse racing requiring disclosure of such critical information,” writes PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in the letter. “This lack of transparency unfairly impacts bettors, as only select industry insiders know the physical problems with the horses. The general betting public is kept in the dark. … It would be in your own best interest to demand these records from racing jurisdictions as a condition of simulcasting.”
In just one example, PETA’s eyewitness investigation of trainer Steve Asmussen—who has three horses slated to run in this year’s Derby—revealed that Nehro, who placed second in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, was raced several times on injured feet and had been given a thyroid hormone as a performance enhancer.
Full disclosure of medication and injury records for the month leading up to the Kentucky Derby would be a significant step toward protecting horses from being dangerously medicated and raced with injuries. Trainers would be exposed if they tried to run a sore or injured horse who was still feeling the effects of multiple medications. Track management could make sure that these horses were recuperating and not racing. Racetrack veterinarians would know about problems in advance and could pull high-risk horses out of the race. Such records have already been released in Hong Kong, and the horses are all the better for it.
Transparency is the first step in stopping the abuse, preventing on-track breakdowns, and sparing cast-off horses a trip to the slaughterhouse.
What You Can Do
Please urge your representative to cosponsor the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017 (H.R. 113), which would prevent horse slaughter in the U.S., end the transport of American horses to foreign slaughterhouses, and prevent the public from consuming horseflesh laden with drug residues.