Horse deaths underscore urgent need for racing reform

By on May 20, 2019 with 0 Comments

At the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico racetrack in Maryland this past Saturday, all eyes were on Bodexpress, a horse who unseated his jockey just out of the starting gate. Bodexpress went on to gallop riderless down the homestretch – and got himself disqualified. For those concerned with animal welfare, however, it was a moment symbolic of what the U.S. horseracing industry itself has become: an enterprise without a rider, struggling to keep pace in a world of changing values and expectations.

That’s because Bodexpress was not the only horse to make headlines last week for the wrong reasons. On Friday, a three-year-old gelding named Commander Coil died at the Santa Anita Racetrack in California – the 24th horse to have died there since December. Just hours later, Congrats Gal, a filly running in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, died of a reported heart attack.

The multi-billion-dollar U.S. horseracing industry, once the envy of the world, is facing a global reputation crisis, for failing to keep up with the higher welfare standards established in other countries. And one of the chief reasons for this is the industry’s continued and widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs – a practice banned or well-regulated in every other major sport in the United States.

The problem began when Congress, in 1980, decided to leave it up to states to come up with their own rules on what drugs to allow in horse racing. This has led to a confusing patchwork of 38 state laws with no uniform national standard, and it’s been a boon for unethical trainers who can move from state to state to avoid penalties while continuing to dope and race horses.

The widespread use of both legal and illegal drugs can lead to a multitude of problems, both for the equine athletes and their riders. Some trainers employ drugs that allow a horse to push through pain, intensifying an injury, or force worn-out horses to compete, which can result in career-ending injuries and even death. Overuse and abuse of drugs administered too close to a race can also mask lameness in horses during pre-race exams – a problem veterinarians and other racing officials have expressed concerns about – endangering both the horse and the rider during a race.

Too many American racehorses are currently also administered race-day drugs to enhance their performance, a practice banned by nearly all other countries.

In past years, the U.S. horse racing industry has made progress in some important areas, like creating aftercare initiatives to help some retired racehorses transition to new careers and avoid being shipped abroad for slaughter. But the industry also needs to consider the welfare of the athletes who are still racing. We are already seeing progress at some racetracks following increased scrutiny of the sport and public outcry, including at Santa Anita, which has moved to make some changes following the horse deaths, and at Golden Gate Fields.

What the sport desperately needs is a central authority to set and oversee all drug and medication rules and penalties. The Humane Society of the United States is pressing for passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R.1754, reintroduced in this Congress by Representatives Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. This important bill would create a single set of anti-doping and medication rules across the country. It would ban race-day medication, enact more rigorous and uniform medication rules and penalties, and increase out-of-competition testing that will enhance the welfare of horses. Many industry leaders and animal protection organizations have been calling for such reforms for years.

The bill will also substantively increase out-of-competition testing, a system in which horses are randomly tested without prior notification. Currently, less than 1% of U.S. Thoroughbred racing tests are performed out of competition, which provides unethical trainers the opportunity to game the system.

With all the tragic news we’ve had about racehorses in recent months, one thing is for certain: the U.S. racing industry simply can’t continue hurtling down the track it is now on. Doing so will not only cause more damage to the sport, it will almost certainly result in the deaths of more horses. If a horse needs drugs in order to race, that horse should not be on the track. Please call your lawmakers today and ask them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act, and to do all they can to ensure its passage, to protect the lives – and future – of American racing equine athletes.

Tiger left in deserted Houston house is now at home at Black Beauty Ranch; Owner arrested and charged with animal cruelty

By on May 17, 2019 with 1 Comment
Tiger left in deserted Houston house is now at home at Black Beauty Ranch; Owner arrested and charged with animal cruelty

The strange saga of a neglected tiger discovered last February in the garage of a deserted Houston home reached a happily-ever-after conclusion this week. Our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, the tiger’s home since his rescue, has been given full legal custody . . . 

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South Dakota’s grisly predator bounty program has already claimed 15,000 animal lives this spring, and counting

By on May 16, 2019 with 6 Comments
South Dakota’s grisly predator bounty program has already claimed 15,000 animal lives this spring, and counting

In the last month, South Dakota residents have trapped and killed more than 15,000 raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes and badgers, cut off their tails, and submitted them to the state’s wildlife management agency for a $10-per-tail reward, all as part of South Dakota’s new Nest . . . 

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An American trophy hunter wants to bring home an endangered cheetah he killed in Namibia

By on May 15, 2019 with 19 Comments
An American trophy hunter wants to bring home an endangered cheetah he killed in Namibia

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson The cheetah, an animal capable of top speeds of 75 miles per hour, is racing toward extinction, with just 7,100 animals left in the wild. Recently, in another expression of the callous disregard trophy hunters show for the world’s . . . 

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Annual Horrible Hundred report identifies problem puppy mills in U.S.; Reveals USDA is failing to crack down on violators

By on May 14, 2019 with 18 Comments
Annual Horrible Hundred report identifies problem puppy mills in U.S.; Reveals USDA is failing to crack down on violators

Our seventh annual Horrible Hundred report, which we are releasing today, reveals shocking instances of neglect and mistreatment of dogs in puppy mills, including severely underweight dogs and large numbers of puppies dying mysteriously. What it also reveals is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture . . . 

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Doris Day was a force for animal protection

By on May 13, 2019 with 4 Comments
Doris Day was a force for animal protection

With the passing of legendary actress, singer and animal advocate Doris Day, the world has lost a generous and kind soul. Even as we mourn the loss of a woman whose grace, talent and versatility left so many of us charmed, I want to celebrate . . . 

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New York’s pioneering bill to end giraffe trafficking now heads to governor’s desk

By on May 9, 2019 with 3 Comments
New York’s pioneering bill to end giraffe trafficking now heads to governor’s desk

New York State is standing tall for giraffes. The state’s lawmakers recently passed a bill that would designate giraffes as a vulnerable species and ban trafficking in their body parts, thus leading the way toward saving this beleaguered species that is fast heading toward extinction. . . . 

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New York City pet store faces lawsuit following HSUS undercover investigation that exposed sick, mistreated puppies

By on May 8, 2019 with 1 Comment
New York City pet store faces lawsuit following HSUS undercover investigation that exposed sick, mistreated puppies

A New York pet store that sold numerous sick puppy mill dogs to unsuspecting consumers now faces a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court for allegedly failing to give proper medical care to sick puppies and deceiving buyers about their health. The store’s former owner may . . . 

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Urgent alert! Act now to prevent trophy hunting of gray wolves

By on May 8, 2019 with 9 Comments
Urgent alert! Act now to prevent trophy hunting of gray wolves

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson Time is running out for America’s gray wolves. The opportunity to weigh in on a proposed federal rule that would prematurely strip Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves in the lower 48 states ends soon, and it is . . . 

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Breaking news: Washington governor signs historic law to end cage confinement of egg-laying hens

By on May 7, 2019 with 1 Comment
Breaking news: Washington governor signs historic law to end cage confinement of egg-laying hens

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has just signed into law the strongest protections for egg-laying hens ever passed in any state legislature. This historic win will benefit approximately eight million hens each year, freeing them from cage confinement by the end of 2023. The measure builds . . . 

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To the Rescue! Gala celebrates work to end farm animal suffering, even as new U.N. report says industrial farming, other human actions are driving animals to extinction

By on May 6, 2019 with 0 Comments
To the Rescue! Gala celebrates work to end farm animal suffering, even as new U.N. report says industrial farming, other human actions are driving animals to extinction

A new United Nations report out today foretells a dire future for Planet Earth: as many as one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, mainly due to human actions, including development, the cutting of down forests and exhaustion of natural resources, . . . 

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Lions living in squalor highlight urgent need to end captive lion breeding industry, canned hunts

By on May 3, 2019 with 11 Comments
Lions living in squalor highlight urgent need to end captive lion breeding industry, canned hunts

South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry is a grim enterprise, and it is one that we have been working to shut down for good. Approximately 12,000 lions are held in 200 lion breeding farms, including some where trophy hunters, including many Americans, pay to kill . . . 

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