Del Mar Horse Deaths Prompt PETA Demand: ‘Release Veterinary Records’

PETA Calls for Full Investigation of Whether Horses Were Drugged and Forced to Run Through Dangerous Injuries

For Immediate Release:
November 3, 2014

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

San Diego, Calif. This morning, PETA sent a letter to Del Mar and the California Horse Racing Board calling on them to release the complete veterinary records of the 16 Thoroughbreds who died at the Del Mar summer meet. As PETA notes in its letter, it’s widely acknowledged in horse racing that deadly breakdowns like those on Del Mar’s track often occur when drugs are used to keep horses running through soreness and injury. PETA’s own investigation of trainer Steve Asmussen revealed that legally allowed anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, stimulants, and painkillers are used to keep sore horses running.

“A thorough investigation must include an examination of all veterinary records and an evaluation of the conditions of the horses and the medications administered to them in at least the year prior to their deaths,” writes Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in the letter. “Anything short of this is inadequate and indicates an unwillingness to admit the enormity of the drug problem in racing—an unwillingness too often seen in recent years.”

This spate of deaths comes as the horse-racing industry is under fire for widespread drug use. Deadly breakdowns claim the lives of more than three horses every day on U.S. racetracks.

 

PETA’s letter to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the California Horse Racing Board follows.

 

November 3, 2014

Rick Baedeker, Executive Director
California Horse Racing Board
1010 Hurley Way, Ste. 300
Sacramento, CA 95825

Joe Harper, President and Chief Executive Officer
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
Del Mar, CA 92014

Dear Messrs. Baedeker and Harper:

I’m writing to express deep concern about the unprecedented number of deaths during Del Mar’s recent racing season. While media reported that Del Mar officials were looking into various issues with track surfaces, it appears that little inquiry has been directed to the condition of the horses in the months preceding their deaths. I’m writing to request that the Del Mar Board of Stewards and the California Horse Racing Board obtain complete veterinary records for each horse who died or was euthanized at the track during the last season and to make these records public. Bettors and those concerned about horse racing in California, which is administered by a state agency that’s publicly funded, should know if horses were being treated for conditions that may have affected their ability to race and even threatened their lives.

As you know, necropsies of horses who’ve suffered fatal breakdowns show that these animals had frequently sustained micro-damage to their bones, which requires time to heal. When they’re not allowed sufficient recovery time, breakdowns may be the result. Furthermore, both The New York Times 2012 investigation of breakdowns on America’s tracks and PETA’s 2013 investigation of trainer Steve Asmussen revealed that trainers often use legally allowed medications, including but not limited to anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, stimulants, and painkillers to ensure that horses who are sore can continue to train and race. This is widely acknowledged by the racing industry to be the leading cause of breakdown.

A thorough investigation must include an examination of all veterinary records and an evaluation of the conditions of the horses and the medications administered to them in at least the year prior to their deaths. Anything short of this is inadequate and indicates an unwillingness to admit the enormity of the drug problem in racing—an unwillingness too often seen in recent years. Finding out exactly why these horses died, no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing it might be, and taking action to prevent similar deaths in the future, will only benefit Del Mar.

I look forward to hearing from you very soon.

Sincerely,

Kathy Guillermo
Senior Vice President
PETA

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