Since late December, 27 racehorses have lost their lives at Santa Anita Park in Southern California.
After 22 horses died, the racetrack closed in March and the track was inspected. Although the cause of all those horses’ deaths had not yet been determined and Santa Anita Park is under investigation by a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office task force, the racetrack reopened just a couple of weeks later.
Two days after that, the 23rd horse fell, suffering a catastrophic injury, and was euthanized. Over a nine-day period in late May, three more horses were injured and euthanized. On June 6, a horse injured while training on the track was euthanized, becoming the 27th fatality.
Yet this deathtrap of a track still remains open for racing.
To help save the lives of the horses racing at Santa Anita and other tracks around California, Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray introduced State Bill 469 in April.
This bill would allow the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), a government group that ensures the safety of this industry in the state, to take immediate action and suspend a track’s license to protect the health and safety of horses and jockeys. The license would remain suspended until the track complied with additional safety standards and the CHRB determined that problems jeopardizing racehorses or jockeys had been adequately resolved.
The CHRB already has the power to suspend track licenses and reschedule racing dates, but under the state’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, the board is required to post a public notice 10 days in advance of a meeting. Since 10 days is too long a time when racehorses’ lives are in imminent danger, SB 469 would waive this requirement and allow the CHRB to suspend licenses immediately in emergency situations.
More than 61,000 people have signed a Care2 petition urging California lawmakers to pass SB 469. Now, Governor Gavin Newsom has also announced his support for the bill.
“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” Newsom said in a May 30 press release. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the ability to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”
In addition to supporting SB 469, Newsom announced that his administration has taken the following regulatory actions through the CHRB in response to the 26 horse deaths at Santa Anita:
- Launched special investigations into the horse deaths by a team including CHRB investigators, an official veterinarian and a safety steward.
- Stopped allowing 11 previously legal corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications to be present in racehorses on race day at all tracks in California. The vast majority (88 percent) of the 36 horses that died at Santa Anita Park last year were on diuretics and other medications that allowed them to continue racing despite having injuries. The performance-enhancing drug Lasix, which is banned in Europe but widely administered to racehorses in the United States, can mask existing injuries in horses when veterinarians examine them before racing.
- Increased official veterinarian, safety steward and investigator staffing at Santa Anita Park.
- Created a new regulation that, as of July 1, 2019, will greatly expand out-of-competition drug testing on racehorses and provide a way for the CHRB to prosecute offenders who abuse prescribed medications.
- Proposed regulatory packages that would prohibit the use of riding crops in racing except in emergencies; require trainers to keep records of all veterinary medications, treatments and procedures performed on a horse; and make the CHRB’s postmortem examination review, which is currently voluntary, mandatory for all trainers who have a horse die in their care.
Along with these important actions taking affect, the good news is that SB 469 has already cleared the California Senate. It will hopefully clear Assembly committees this month and reach Newsom’s desk before the July 12 recess.
It’s tragic that over two dozen racehorses died this year at Santa Anita Park. While outlawing horse racing altogether would be the surest way to prevent more deaths, the passage of SB 469 is a big step in the right direction for saving the lives of California’s racehorses.
- Please sign and share this petition asking California legislators to pass State Bill 469 to give the California Horse Racing Board the power to save the lives of racehorses.
- To protect racehorses nationwide, sign this petition urging the U.S. Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754). This act would create a uniform national standard for drug testing and ban all medications within 24 hours of a race.
- Join over 91,000 people who have signed this petition demanding that Santa Anita Park be closed permanently.
If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You‘ll find Care2‘s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons