21 Deaths at Belmont Prompt PETA Call for Emergency Reforms

Group Says CT Scans, Increase in Medication Withdrawal Times, Suspension of Trainers' Licenses, and More Are Necessary to Stop Deaths

For Immediate Release:
June 17, 2020

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Schenectady, N.Y. – It’s hard to imagine that at least 21 horses have already died at Belmont Park this year—despite a shorter season and fewer races—which is why PETA sent an urgent letter this morning calling on the New York State Gaming Commission and the New York Racing Association to adopt emergency measures immediately in order to protect horses.

These vital but reasonable measures include installing CT scan equipment to screen for otherwise undetectable injuries; suspending the licenses of trainers of horses who die, pending investigation; canceling the licenses of trainers who accumulate more than three medication violations; and increasing withdrawal time for anti-inflammatory drugs to seven days. Research shows that more than 90% of broken bones occur at the site of a pre-existing injury, often masked by the use of drugs, both legal and illegal.

“Enough is enough. The state must stop the bloodbath at Belmont,” says Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “PETA will not stand by silently while horses’ bones shatter on the track.”

A coalition of human services, education, and animal protection groups are calling for an end to state casino subsidies for racing, noting that millions of dollars are going into promoting racing, even as horses are dying and humans are suffering income loss from the COVID-19 pandemic.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to the New York State Gaming Commission and the New York Racing Association follows.

June 17, 2020

New York State Gaming Commission
P.O. Box 7500
Schenectady, NY 12301-7500

Dear Commissioners,

Is Belmont Park the new Santa Anita? There have been at least 21 deaths during training and racing at Belmont so far this year, even with the shortened season, delayed race dates, and fewer races.

On behalf of our 350,000 supporters in New York, PETA urges the Commission to enact the following emergency measures in order to protect horses at Belmont:

  • Install low-radiation, high-resolution CT scan equipment to screen for otherwise undetectable injuries.
  • Increase the withdrawal time for allowable anti-inflammatory medication from 48 hours to seven days before a race.
  • Suspend the trainer’s license, pending a necropsy and a full investigation, when a horse sustains a catastrophic injury.
  • Strengthen the current points system of penalties and cancel licenses of trainers who accumulate more than three medication violations.

Research shows that more than 90% of broken bones occur at the site of a pre-existing injury and that this kind of injury may not be detected, as the horse doesn’t feel it—often because the use of legal medication masks it. Additionally, trainers who are cited for violations involving allowable medications are fined minimal amounts and then simply return to work—the penalties are seen as merely part of the cost of doing business rather than as meaningful deterrents.

New York racing must not allow this bloodbath to continue and must address these issues now. Thank you.

Kind regards,

Kathy Guillermo

Senior Vice President

Equine Matters Department

cc:       New York Racing Association

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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