19 Horse Deaths: PETA Wants Investigation Into Trainers’ Drug Dosing

DA, California Horse Racing Board Asked to Take Immediate Action

For Immediate Release:
March 1, 2019

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Los Angeles – This morning, PETA called on the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office to launch an immediate investigation into the deaths of 19 Thoroughbred horses used for racing in just the first eight weeks of the Santa Anita racetrack’s current season. The horses sustained broken bones while racing or training, and PETA believes that they likely had undisclosed injuries that were masked by medications given to keep lame and unfit horses competing—and that while the drugs may be legal, racing injured horses likely violates state anti-cruelty laws.

PETA is also calling on the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to investigate the trainers of all the horses who died in the last two months and review all veterinary records.

In California, every horse who dies on the track is necropsied—and the results of thousands of these procedures show that the breaks usually occurred where there was already an injury. According to PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, these horses “were invariably doped up and literally run to death.” In a presentation to The Jockey Club, CHRB Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur stated that “90 percent of all horses suffering fatal musculoskeletal injuries racing or training have pre-existing pathology—a prior injury—at the site of their fatal injury.”

“If 19 football players died during one season, there would be hell to pay—and it would be an understatement to say that the NFL would be under scrutiny,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “If trainers know that horses are sore or injured, and they’re giving them painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sedatives to keep them running when they should be resting, the trainers are culpable in these deaths and should be charged with cruelty to animals.”

One ugly fact is that most horses are injected with the powerful anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone (aka “bute”) 24 hours before racing—supposedly to prevent swelling. But the drug also masks pain and keeps a lame horse running to his or her detriment. For this reason, injuries that can cause a horse’s leg bones to snap or shatter on the track are missed during pre-race examinations because the horse isn’t feeling or showing the pain of an injury and the track veterinarian doesn’t examine trainers’ records.

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in New Jersey in March 2018 by a harness racing fan who lost a bet only to find out later that the winning horse had been illegally drugged is pending.

Local residents will protest at Santa Anita on Sunday. PETA’s appeal for an investigation is available upon request. PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, which is a belief in human supremacy that allows animals to be exploited for human gain. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“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