Horse deaths at Santa Anita underscore need for racing reform nationwide

By on June 17, 2019 with 0 Comments

The number of horses dying at the Santa Anita racetrack in California since December 2018 has led to widespread concern in the horseracing world and beyond, and prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to call for closing the racetrack until the safety of the horses can be guaranteed. These mysterious deaths – 29 so far – also underscore why we have been calling for urgent reforms within the horseracing industry.

The causes of the horse deaths at Santa Anita are under investigation, and one of the explanations in play is the rampant drugging of horses to get them onto the track when they should be resting and recovering from injuries.

The Stronach Group, owner of Santa Anita Park, has introduced new safety initiatives, including better veterinary oversight in the form of a five-member team of independent veterinarians and stewards who will provide additional review of horses’ medical, training and racing history and will have the authority to scratch horses that do not appear fit to run.

That’s a start but it’s not nearly enough. We shouldn’t be waiting for crisis to strike before acting to ensure the safety of racehorses. Horseracing is in a state of crisis, and we need urgent nationwide reform. That’s why we are supporting the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R. 1754/S. 1820, a federal bill to regulate the use of drugs and medication in racehorses. Almost all American racehorses are injected with race-day medication, a practice banned by nearly every other country, and it’s time for the United States to catch up with the rest of the world.

Last week, we joined horseracing industry leaders to provide a briefing before the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus on the bill, sponsored by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., in the House, and by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in the Senate. Its passage would create the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority, a private, not-for-profit regulatory authority established and led by the United States Anti-Doping Agency or USADA, to implement rules regarding the use of permitted and prohibited substances and develop anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs.

Currently there is no national rulebook for horseracing and 38 separate racing jurisdictions have separate and remarkably different rules that govern the sport in each of their states. This patchwork of laws has jeopardized the safety of horses, led to inconsistent and confusing rules, and given cheaters ample opportunity to game the system, with horses and jockeys paying the price when a horse breaks down on the track.

The Horseracing Integrity Act would address pervasive drug use in the industry while enhancing oversight. The bill includes stiff penalties for cheating that apply nationwide, with possible sanctions including lifetime bans from horseracing, forfeiture of purses, and monetary fines and penalties. It would also, importantly, ban race-day medication of horses, and require an increase in out-of-competition testing.

Under the current system, trainers often know when horses will be tested and which drugs will be screened for. This system has been exploited by racehorse trainers. One trainer, Stephanie Beattie, testified during the 2017 doping trial of two-time Penn National trainer Murray Rojas that she routinely had her horses illegally treated with medications on race day by the same veterinarians who provided drugs to Rojas. “Almost everybody did. 95 to 98%. It was a known practice. We wanted to win, and they weren’t testing for those drugs at that time,” she said.

At Santa Anita, despite the concerns, the organizers continue to race horses. We have called for them to stop until the investigation results have been released and until reforms are implemented in full. Meanwhile, we will be doing all we can to push for the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act in Congress, and we need your help. You can play a critical role in protecting racehorses by contacting your federal legislators. Ask them to cosponsor this important bill to ensure that America’s equine athletes are safe on the racetracks.

HSUS rescues nearly 200 cats, several dogs from alleged neglect situation in Texas

By on June 14, 2019 with 0 Comments
HSUS rescues nearly 200 cats, several dogs from alleged neglect situation in Texas

It was the smell that hit them the hardest as staff members from our Animal Rescue Team entered a house in Killeen, Texas, this morning, to help local law enforcement agents remove nearly 200 cats and kittens and several dogs from a situation of alleged . . . 

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Instead of cleaning house, Petland wages a losing battle against puppy mill reform

By on June 13, 2019 with 0 Comments
Instead of cleaning house, Petland wages a losing battle against puppy mill reform

Our eight-month investigation into six Petland stores has revealed heartbreaking stories of puppy mistreatment and deaths. It has led to hundreds of customers contacting us with personal stories of buying animals from Petland, only to have them fall sick and even die; it has caused . . . 

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Oregon passes controversial plan to set the stage for trophy hunting of wolves

By on June 11, 2019 with 0 Comments
Oregon passes controversial plan to set the stage for trophy hunting of wolves

Oregon has just made it easier for trophy hunters and trappers to go after the state’s small population of wolves. In a move strenuously opposed by scientists, environmentalists and animal protection groups, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday updated its Wolf Conservation and . . . 

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Breaking news: Canada bans captivity of whales and dolphins for entertainment

By on June 10, 2019 with 1 Comment
Breaking news: Canada bans captivity of whales and dolphins for entertainment

In a powerful affirmation of the rising global tide against the use of marine animals in performing acts, Canadian lawmakers today voted to end the captivity of whales, dolphins and porpoises for entertainment. The Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act or the “Free . . . 

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China takes a step toward joining global cruelty-free cosmetics revolution

By on June 7, 2019 with 1 Comment
China takes a step toward joining global cruelty-free cosmetics revolution

China has, for a long time, been on the sidelines of the global campaign to end animal testing for cosmetics. Animal tests have, in fact, been a legal requirement for many types of cosmetics made and imported into China, and authorities have traditionally required pre-market . . . 

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No science behind war on wolves, coyotes

By on June 6, 2019 with 6 Comments
No science behind war on wolves, coyotes

Scientists have long cautioned against the indiscriminate hunting of wolves because of the harmful effects it can have on the natural balance of an ecosystem. But this has not stopped states or the federal government from conducting a war on these beautiful native carnivores. The . . . 

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In a first for the nation, New York State lawmakers vote to ban cat declawing

By on June 5, 2019 with 1 Comment
In a first for the nation, New York State lawmakers vote to ban cat declawing

New York State lawmakers yesterday said a resounding “no” to the declawing of cats. Many well-meaning cat owners over the years have chosen to pay for this surgery, but we now know with certainty that it is the cause of tremendous suffering and behavioral problems . . . 

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Breaking news: Key House committee, federal court direct USDA to release crucial animal welfare records

By on June 4, 2019 with 2 Comments
Breaking news: Key House committee, federal court direct USDA to release crucial animal welfare records

The House appropriations committee has just issued a clear directive to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reinstate full public access to animal welfare inspection reports and other records that show how businesses like roadside zoos and puppy mills, and research facilities that do invasive . . . 

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Fast food chains are putting plant-based options on the menu

By on June 3, 2019 with 0 Comments
Fast food chains are putting plant-based options on the menu

At the Super Bowl this year, we caught a glimpse of the future of food from an unlikely source: Carl’s Jr. During the big game, the fast food chain advertised its new Beyond Burger — a patty that tastes just like meat, but is entirely . . . 

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10 states now encourage adoption of research dogs into loving homes

By on May 31, 2019 with 4 Comments
10 states now encourage adoption of research dogs into loving homes

It is a bleak life for the approximately 60,000 dogs and 20,000 cats used in testing and research in U.S. laboratories each year. In March, we revealed the sad plight of some of these animals when we did an undercover investigation at a contract laboratory . . . 

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Alert! Last chance to comment on USDA rule to reform puppy mills

By on May 30, 2019 with 9 Comments
Alert! Last chance to comment on USDA rule to reform puppy mills

There has been an incredible response to our Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills and to our Petland investigation, both released this month. Tens of thousands of you have shared our blog posts on social media, and many have written to us with your . . . 

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