Horseracing Integrity Act will crack down on drugging, protect racehorses

By on March 14, 2019 with 4 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

In recent years, major professional sports have taken crucial steps to rid themselves of illegal doping in order to create a more level playing field and to protect athletes from the adverse effects of performance-enhancing drugs. But there has been no such respite for equine athletes in the horse racing industry, where both legal and illegal drugs continue to be used widely.

Today, U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky., reintroduced the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R.1754, a federal bill that will better protect America’s racehorses by replacing outdated state-by-state drug and medication rules with one national standard, ban race-day medication and increase out-of-competition testing. The bill has the support of a number of racing industry leaders and animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, The Jockey Club and the New York Racing Association. The HSUS testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection in support of this bill when it was introduced in the last Congress.

It is no secret that we have a drug crisis in the horse racing industry, one that has led to the premature deaths of thousands of horses over the years. 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 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 for their riders. Some drugs 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. If a horse needs drugs in order to race, that horse should not be on the track.

Support for reform is quickly growing throughout the racing industry as stakeholders recognize the importance and need for clean competition in horse racing. The operators of Belmont Park, Saratoga Race Course, Aqueduct Racetrack, and the Stronach Group which owns several tracks, including Pimlico Race Course, which is home to the Preakness, Keeneland, all support the Horseracing Integrity Act, as does the Water Hay Oats Alliance and members of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity.

This bill is a gamechanger for equine athletes. It is a pro-animal, pro-industry measure that will not only help restore fairness to the sport but it will also protect racehorses from the winning-at-all-costs mentality embraced by cheaters. When the bill was introduced in the last Congress it had 132 cosponsors, and we are working to ensure it will cross the finish line this time. Please contact your U.S. representative and urge them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R.1754.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Dan Summy says:

    Very encouraged that this legislation will pass the House and eventually become law. I have contacted Representative Mo Brooks from Alabama, asking for his support for this bill.

  2. Trudie Zampanti says:

    I volunteer at F.R.I.E.N.D.S. In Florida. The reason I found out is because my husband and I love to go to GulfStream to watch the races. I fell in love with these beautiful creatures and wanted to do something for those that weren’t as lucky. I had no idea they were being drugged. At Our rescue we just rescued a horse 4 years old and he has the blood equine disease and was going to be put down so we took him. I just found out thru a person that euthanizes horses that this Track keeps him busy with horses that are under 2 years old. THIS IS A TRAGEDY. Please stop the drugging these animals were born to run they don’t need drugs!!!

  3. Karen Drennen says:

    There have been 35 deaths at Santa Anita in California this past year and over 60 deaths in California thus year. It is a fact two racehorses die every day in North America due to injury. This so called “sport” has to be shut down. The doping is putting a bandaid on a problem of exploitation and abuse by greedy owners and fans that are addicted to gambling. Senator Diane Feinstein wants the racetrack in Santa Anita shut down but Governor Newsom won’t do it. Forget this law. The owners and breeders will hide behind it and promote the inevitable and in the end more horses will die. Shut down all animal exploitation. I can’t believe the HSUS supports horse racing. It is killing horses for entertainment. It is like the Roman
    Colosseum and HSUS thinks it is okay as they are not calling for horse racing to end.

  4. Ace says:

    Drugs have ripped the world apart. Opioids and other drugs take lots of people’s lives , proving it is dangerous to humans, so why do we do it to animals? People are so cruel. Poor horsey 🙁

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