L.A. County DA Launches Investigation Into 22 Horses’ Deaths After PETA Push

Princess Lili B, Like Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, Broke Both Front Legs—in 11 Years, Nothing Has Changed

For Immediate Release:
March 15, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s (DA) office has notified PETA that it has assigned investigators to look into the circumstances under which  trainers and veterinarians may have been involved in the deaths of 22 horses at Santa Anita racetrack since December. This follows the death of filly Princess Lili B—after she broke both front legs yesterday morning—and a massive PETA protest that took place outside the DA’s office. It is also 11 years after a filly named Eight Belles broke both her front legs in a tragic incident that kicked off PETA’s involvement in racing reforms.

PETA first requested that the DA order an investigation on March 1, citing evidence from thousands of necropsies of Thoroughbreds in California showing that bone breaks in horses used for racing predominantly occur at the site of previous injuries. The group alleges that medications given to the horses may have masked injuries and led to the broken bones and deaths.

Like Princess Lili B, Eight Belles broke both front legs just after crossing the finish line in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. Her horrifying and public death on national television prompted PETA to campaign against cruelty in racing. PETA’s 2014 investigation of trainer Steve Asmussen revealed that all the horses in his care were routinely medicated with everything from sedatives to thyroid medication—and its findings resulted in changes to medication regulations in New York state.

Also yesterday, Santa Anita announced groundbreaking changes, making it the first track in the U.S. to ban race-day medications, whipping, and cruel practices to mask pain in horses’ legs, including shockwave therapy and injecting joints with corticosteroids, both of which are standard practices at tracks around the country.

“Eleven years of broken bones and thousands upon thousands of Thoroughbred deaths have finally resulted in a criminal investigation into trainers,” says PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The DA’s office is doing the right thing, and PETA urges all tracks in the U.S. to stop the abuse and carnage and enact the changes made by Santa Anita racetrack—or get out of the business.”

PETA’s March 1 letter to District Attorney Jackie Lacey is available upon request. Please see PETA.org for more information.

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