U.S. House members hear compelling testimony on bills to protect horses from drugging, slaughter

By on January 29, 2020 with 23 Comments

Members of the U.S. House signaled their interest in protecting American horses by holding hearings on two important bills this week: one to stop the dangerous practice of drugging racehorses to enhance their performance on the tracks or disguise pain, and another to keep American equines from facing a brutal death in a slaughterhouse so someone overseas can eat their meat.

The Horseracing Integrity Act, H.R.1754, heard yesterday by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce, is becoming increasingly necessary at a time when we are being inundated with news about horses dying on racetracks. Since the beginning of last year, 42 horses have died at the Santa Anita racetrack in California alone and more than 20 have died just this month, highlighting the growing need for reform in an industry where animal athletes are medicated, often indiscriminately, creating a dangerous situation for both the horses and the jockeys who ride them.

Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, a founding member of the HSUS National Horseracing Advisory Council, told committee members that on average, two jockeys die each year due to training or racing accidents and two more are left paralyzed. A vast majority of the tragedies, he said, happen when horses, who are racing with preexisting conditions masked by medications, break down during practice or races.

The Horseracing Integrity Act would end such medication abuse by replacing an outdated system that allows states to come up with their own rules on what drugs to allow in horseracing with no universal standard. The bill would ban race-day medication of horses and empower the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency—a non-profit organization that runs anti-doping programs for the Olympic and Pan American sports in the United States—to set up an authority that will ensure a nationally uniform set of rules on medication use in horseracing.

Committee members also heard yesterday from Joe De Francis, chair of the HSUS National Horseracing Advisory Council and former chief executive officer and controlling shareholder of the Maryland Jockey Club, who said the industry has tried and failed to fix problems in the past and needs help from Congress. Also among the speakers at yesterday’s hearing were the bill’s lead cosponsors, Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky.

Reps. Barr and Tonko are also cosponsoring the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., which had a hearing today in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. The HSUS and HSLF have long fought to end the slaughter of American horses, and our representatives attended the hearing this morning to support the legislation. This bill would permanently ban the reopening of domestic horse slaughter plants, as well as the transport of American horses abroad for slaughter in Canada and Mexico. A companion bill has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

For years now, the HSUS and our coalition partners have prevailed in keeping horse slaughter plants from reopening in the United States by ensuring a prohibition was retained in Congress’s annual spending bill. But that does not stop “kill buyers” from acquiring American horses at auctions and shipping them abroad for slaughter. Each year tens of thousands of American horses are shipped to Canada and Mexico where they are butchered for their meat.

The animals, including retired racehorses, show ponies and family pets, are loaded into cramped livestock trailers where they spend many hours without food and water. The frightened animals often get into fights and are injured or even killed during transport. At the end of their journey, these unlucky animals face a gruesome death.

American horses are not raised for human consumption. Many are treated or injected with medications and chemical substances that are dangerous to humans and prohibited for use in animals raised for human consumption. This makes ending the slaughter of horses not just an important animal protection issue but also a key human health concern. In fact, the European Union in 2014 suspended all imports of horsemeat from Mexico precisely over such concerns. More than 80 percent of the horses killed in Mexican slaughterhouses originate from the United States.

The SAFE Act has been endorsed by a wide spectrum of organizations, including the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA), the ASPCA, Animal Welfare Institute, Return to Freedom, The Jockey Club and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. We are happy to see Congress is now moving on this important bill, and on the Horseracing Integrity Act, and we urge members to act swiftly to pass these two bills into law this year. American equines are beloved companions who deserve our admiration and our gratitude for their service to our nation. It is not much to ask that they be protected from extreme suffering that could include being pumped with dangerous drugs or being shunted to slaughter in a foreign land, or both.

Ask your federal legislators to cosponsor the SAFE Act and the Horseracing Integrity Act.

Companion Animals, Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Claudette DuBois says:

    We need to protect and save all our wild horses. Legacy for the future. Give them sanctuary safe space. Ban slaughter sale for slaughter or transport to slaughter in the United States

    • Barbara Ritchey says:

      How do you adopt one of these horses

    • Brenda Wakefield says:

      I agree many people don’t even realize how these horse’s end up after that person from the kill pens or auctions take that horse. Any slaughter should not happen any where unless it is needed. The avg person throws away 1/2 of he or she buys for food .So much is wasted What ever happened to the old saying wasted not want not. This world is not right Any one out there need a place to home a horse or 20 let me know if you can’t afford it don’t take to a auction your pet deserve better glass_lady77@yahoo.com

  2. Alyssa says:

    I have been waiting for something to be done regarding both of these issues for years! As a horse owner and animal lover, these issues should have been taken care of years ago! Horses should be treated like dogs, after all horses are family pets too. We would never inject our dogs or send our dogs to slaughter, so why are we injecting harmful chemicals and sending horses to slaughter? Not only are our horses being affected, but our human population is being affected by jockeys becoming severely injured! Horses were never meant to be consumed by the human population!!!! These animals have feelings, they are aware of their surroundings and what is happening during transport and arriving at slaughterhouse! Animal cruelty is a law now and this is animal cruelty! Pass this bill for all the horse lovers in America!!

  3. dorene hendricks says:

    Stop this insanity and save the wild horses they are our heritage

  4. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Se tiene que proteger a los caballos del crimen no se puede permitir mas crueldad hacia los animalitos en general

  5. Shaina Muztafago says:

    I’m not seeing language that takes the slaughter of wild horses off the table? They are not typically treated with all of the drugs that domesticated horses are, so if the drugs are the only reasoning for non-slaughter rhat puts wild horses at an even bigger risk than they presently face. Are they included…they are just as American, if not more so.
    Thank you!

  6. Eileen Walusek says:

    What about protecting wild horses form being rounded up and cruelly sterilized? Are wild horses included in this bill to not be slaughtered as well?

  7. Lori OBrien says:

    This country was built on the backs of horses. They helped build this country. They carried us in times of war. They help veterans with PTSD and help people with both mental and physical disabilities. They help police officers serve and protect. Sending them off to slaughter is inhumane and barbaric!!!!!

  8. Stacey E Gerber says:

    It is time to end the inhumane slaughter of every creature. It is beyond the time to end the kill buyers’ ability to profit off horsemeat trade.

  9. Tanya Vudler Casale says:

    It is important to stop horse slaughter and transporting horses to slaughter in the USA, as well as transporting of horses for slaughter into any country in the world.
    It is important to oversee horse racing, ban drugging the horses, and racing horses while they are ill. Eventually horse racing should be banned, the way that dog racing is banned in a number of states.
    The greatest tragedy is the way that our wild horses and burros are treated on their own legal ranges. They are being pushed toward extinction in cruelest of ways. Cattle and sheep and petroleum industry are taking over their grazing areas, while the wild horses are being chased by helicopters for miles in horrendous roundups, during which horses are killed, pregnant mares loose their unborn foals, and the poor young foals break legs and die, since the distance and the speed are too much for them to keep up with. It is nothing if not inhumane torture, the kind that could warrant legal prosecution due to inhumanity to animals. I wonder whether there are numbers kept of the horses who have died, or broken their limbs, and were destroyed during the roundups. Sadly, it is all kept quiet, and the majority of the US citizens have no idea of what is going on with the iconic herds that have ran free for hundreds of years, that belong to all of us, and that, if they survive the roundups, will end up caged in holdings, not always properly taken care of and waiting for possible death in slaughter in Mexico or Canada. The governmental agencies that are supposed to take care of them have become their mortal enemies. The wild horses and burros need all the help we and you can give them. It is high time to rescue them and ensure they are treated humanely, and that they are allowed to run free for the next many hundreds of years.

  10. Jayme Bastiansen says:

    The passing of HR961 SAFE Act is very important. Please put this bill to the floor so it can be voted on and passed!
    Thank you.

  11. L. Wells says:

    Both atrosities have to be stopped. When we were driving up state earlier this month slaughter trucks full of horses were headed up north. You could see the horses were terrified, and there was slots letting freezing air into the trailers. Some looked so young. What a pitiful sight. Can’t those greedy men make money a more ethical way.

  12. Suzan L Jackson says:

    From what I have been reading, that the slaughterhouse worker has no rights where the “How to do it humanely “ is concerned……makes me wonder who really is at fault for all the animal suffering and worker stress.

  13. Leslie Ettredge says:

    Horses were a big part of the settling of America. They deserve better treatment, and space to live out their lives. Stop the horrible acts that are going on now!

  14. Debra Wildrick says:

    This may sound like a poorly thought out rant, but, here goes. So, the government just takes over wild horses and sends them to their deaths because, why? Don’t, WE THE PEOPLE, have a say? Department of the Interior is not the end all of these decisions, but if they are, we need to change that! What about all the intelligence in this world failing to figure out a way to control hunger instead of this practice of killing dogs, horses, etc. just to meet some financial gain? What about preserving the quality of life for all inhabitants, animals included? There are far more useful things these horses can be managed for besides abuse and then slaughter for meat in Mexico. For a so called, progressive society, there leaves alot to be desired. Stop this.

  15. Wendi Favreau-Richards says:

    No animal should endure suffering

  16. Lynn Gulick says:

    Letting greed be your guiding light says volumes. Save these beautiful animals

  17. Emily says:

    Let the horses be!

  18. Gloria says:

    No more suffering for these horses!

  19. Susan Trout says:

    While I’m very gratified to learn the latest news about unscrupulous owners, trainers and veterinarians being indicted regarding drug abuse in racing, I’m wondering just how aggressive prosecutors will be in punishing these scumbags. Horse-racing is no longer the “sport of kings.” Far too many people become involved that care nothing about the horse–only the dollar$ they can bring in. Poor Mongolian Groom is the poster horse for abuse and failure on the part his humans to protect and care for him. When a horse refuses to load in the gate, it’s not because he’s being contrary. This poor horse was lame in his left hind leg and knew that being forced into that gate would result in more pain. Thirty veterinarians were at Santa Anita the day of the Breeders Cup races. It was their job to thoroughly and carefully inspect each horse to make sure s/he was fit to run. THIRTY VETERINARIANS!–people that are expected to care for and NOT do harm to the animals they treat–FAILED poor Mongolian Groom. My heart aches for all the horses who are exploited to the point of pain and suffering. People responsible will pay, if not here, one day when they stand before their Creator. Horse-racing couldn’t end too soon in my opinion. Another important concern of mine is the terrible mistreatment of Tennessee Walking Horses forced to perform the “big lick” gait before they are even THREE-YEARS-OLD! Here is a video of a 3-year-old stallion class at one of the Tennessee Walking Horse shows. Notice how the sides of the stallion ridden by the woman in the blue jacket are heaving Honestly, folks, this horse did not run a strenuous race. He simply was forced to wear 8″ stacked and weighted shoes to make him perform the exaggerated and grotesque “big lick” gait. He’s breathing very hard and his eyes reflect fear and strain. No human being in his/her right mind could consider this horsemanship or pretty to watch. Please people, DEMAND that your legislators pass the PASS Act which will finally address this class in particular and stop the use of chains, weighted and stacked shoes, and awful irritant liquids that are slathered on these poor creatures’ legs. Finally, if we are to rightly claim to be civilized, we have to stop sending horses on arduous, painful, and frequently fatal journeys to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. I have seen the videos at the feed lots. I’ve seen the horrific injuries inflicted on these poor horses. Mares foaling in the semi-trucks and the foals being trampled to death! This is America! We cannot continue to ignore these deeply important issues simply because there are so many human problems. I’m sick and tired of people berating me, and thousands of other compassionate people who care deeply about animal suffering, because of their misguided and callous belief that we should help people first. There is room in our hearts to help both people and animals. And I’ve always believed that compassion is NOT genuine if it excludes!

  20. Susan Trout says:

    Here is the video taken of a three-year-old stallion at that Tennessee Walking Horse Show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IjPw_k12Ok

  21. Karen Drennen says:

    In 2018 the USDA categorized horses as livestock not companion animals. The rationale: farm income, prevention of cruelty laws, research into equine diseases/laws that only pertain to livestock. The US government is making billions of dollars on horses, In 2001 the horse industry 112.1 billion. The US government makes money on all animals from UDSA farming, animals used for research. BLM round up 25,000 horses a year by Department of Interior. Horses provide money for entertainment such as rodeos and horse-racing.
    This category has led to horrific abuse of these animals unlike any other.This is the reason that trying to get legislation passed like the SAFE act to prevent exporting of horse meat and PAST act to prevent soring are not being passed and being held up for years. They are sending draft horse colts overseas and butchering them on the way so that in 3 days they will be horse sushi. The American Horse Council agrees and condones this slaughter. Over 100,000 horses are sent overseas a year. It is a big business. Horse racing kills 800 horses a year in US. In California alone Santa Anita averages 50 kills year.. . these numbers mean nothing to them. Due to the livestock category they look at them as if they are cows and are expendable. There is a war on animals and horses are one of the top abused and exploited animals based on their numbers. These animals need re-classified in a sub-category to give them protection. They served in the military, for transportation, serve on police forces and worked hard on farms and won races only to be treated terribly in the end. Contact your representative to take a stand for animals including horses and urge candidates to support animals part of their campaign platform. Animals are a big business and these candidates need to respond to public about our tax dollars and what they are to be used for and not to be used for like exploiting horses. This is an election year and tell them you vote for a candidate that supports and protects horses and all animals. Vote for animals.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.