The horse racing industry has been around for centuries. It is a billion-dollar industry. There are a little over a hundred tracks that host Thoroughbred and Standardbred (harness) racing in the United States. 36,207 races were held in 2019 and grossed over $1,167,923,279. As with any sport that involves monetary gain, greed often takes precedence over its participants’ well-being–humans and animals.
On the racetrack, equine injuries are common, and, sadly, even death occurs. One publicized death in 2006 involving the Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, brought about the Equine Injury Database (EID), a national database to help keep track of injuries and deaths occurring 72 hours after a race. Tracks submit these statistics of their own volition. This practice creates an incomplete picture and masks the true realities that occur on or off the track.
There has been controversy surrounding the use of the approved drugs, Lasix and Phenylbutazone, and whether they contribute to horse injuries and deaths in the United States. Lasix is used to treat exercise-induced hemorrhaging to prevent bleeding, and Phenylbutazone, commonly known as “bute,” is an anti-inflammatory drug. According to Dr. Tim Parkin, a professor of Veterinary Epidemiology at the University of Glasgow, Phenylbutazone can mask a horse’s health and increases the risk of sustaining minor or life-threatening injuries while racing. The recent deaths of numerous horses at the Santa Anita track in California resulted in the decision to ban the use of Lasix by 2021.
In 2019, Representative Paul Tonka (D-NY) introduced H.R.1754, referred to as “The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020.” This bill will create an independent committee to oversee the implementation of an anti-doping and medication control program. The bill has passed the House and will be heading to the Senate. Will a regulation committee help decrease horseracing injuries and deaths?
Take Action: Horses are athletic, intelligent creatures. Let’s enjoy watching them race like the wind free in the fields, not on a racetrack. Support legislation to help protect them. If you agree that a committee is a step in the right direction, contact your representative to show your support for the passage of H.R.1754.