Horse’s Fatal Overdose Prompts PETA to Call For a Criminal Investigation

For Immediate Release:
April 15, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Oceanport, N.J. – This morning, PETA sent a letter to New Jersey Department of Agriculture Director and State Veterinarian Manoel Tamassia, urging an investigation and the filing of appropriate criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against horse trainer Cody Axmaker, who was penalized this week over the apparent clenbuterol overdose death of a horse named Wishful at Monmouth Park last May. Fourteen other horses were also reportedly overdosed with the medication but survived with treatment. Clenbuterol is meant to relieve respiratory illnesses but has long been abused by trainers for its performance-enhancing properties, prompting many regulators and racetracks to restrict its use.

The New Jersey Racing Commission suspended Axmaker for two years and fined him $5,000 for possessing the prohibited substance and neglecting the horses in his care—but PETA points out that the horses’ overdose was also likely a violation of cruelty-prevention statutes and stresses the need for a criminal investigation. The group notes that Axmaker’s conduct appears to fall squarely within New Jersey’s cruelty-to-animals statute, which makes it illegal to “purposely, knowingly, or recklessly … poison … a living animal.”

“A fine and suspension must not replace a criminal investigation,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “There were victims here—including a horse called Wishful—and her killing deserves to be recognized as the crime it was.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—notes that every week, an average of 24 horses experience fatal breakdowns at racetracks across the country, and this number doesn’t even include the horses who are discarded by the racing industry when they’re no longer considered profitable.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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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