The Horseracing Integrity Act Would Mean More Dead Horses

The Horseracing Integrity Act speciously suggests that all that stands between horseracing and integrity is a national drug program overseen by a central organization. First, drugs in racing is a divisive topic within the industry. In a recent Cronkite News article, Dr. Verlin Jones, a track vet with 30 years experience, says:

“Right now in Arizona we have probably mid-level to low-level claimers. That population of horses comes with their own set of problems, so we deal with horses that have a higher level of injury… I think that right now these private practitioners on the back side, their hands are really, really handcuffed. When you’re dealing with this level of horse, they have a lot of problems. Those problems can be taken care of, but we have to have our full arsenal in order to do that.” Then this: “I really feel like horses today are having to run in more pain. More pain leads to muscle fatigue, muscle fatigue leads to bone fatigue, bone fatigue leads to catastrophic breakdowns.”

In other words, less drugs may mean more dead horses, at least at the more pedestrian tracks – which is to say, the majority of tracks.

In addition, the bill would ban raceday medication, more specifically Lasix. Many within racing believe that Lasix is therapeutic, as it purportedly controls pulmonary bleeding in fast-moving racehorses. In a Louisville Courier Journal article from April, renowned trainer Dale Romans says, “I like facts, and the facts are that we’ve been using [Lasix] and it doesn’t hurt horses.” Eric Hamelback, CEO of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, added, “I would hope the industry stakeholders understand the ban on the use of furosemide…will not prevent horses from suffering catastrophic injuries, and in fact, could cause further harm and should not be seen as a safety reform.”

But more to the point is what the Horseracing Integrity Act does not, because it cannot, address: The inherent cruelty and inevitable deadliness of horseracing. On the former, in addition to being torn from their mothers as mere babes, being bought and sold like common Amazon products, and subjected to lip tattoos, cribbing collars, nose chains, tongue ties, mouth bits, and whips, racehorses – innately social and mobile animals – are kept locked, alone, in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day. They are kept thus because as costly assets their owners are loath to risk injury in a more natural (humane) setting.

As to the killing, and contrary to what the reformers would have you believe, death at the track is, has always been, and always will be a built-in part of the system: From breeding for speed (big torsos, spindly legs, fragile ankles); to working pubescent bodies (the typical horse doesn’t fully mature until 6; the typical racehorse begins intensive training at 18 months); to the incessant grinding of those bodies (if they’re not racing, they’re not earning); to forcing them to “race” at an unnatural rate (breakneck) through unnatural means (perched, whip-wielding humans); to the commodification (the average racehorse is bought and sold several times over the course of his “career,” making his long-term well-being of no concern to his current people) – horseracing guarantees a certain level of killing. Guarantees.

In the final analysis, the only thing the HIA (or any other “reformist” legislation that may arise) would do is give Racing a desperately needed PR win, which, in turn, would likely help reverse its currently-declining fortunes – which, in turn, would condemn countless more horses to lives of abuse and premature, often gruesome, deaths.

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  1. Horse racing requires abusive business practices, on their racehorses, in order to fill races and increase wagering profits.
    This is all done under the falsehood that they are being treated “like family members.”
    If they treated their family members like they treated their racehorses then they would be in jail on child abuse charges – hands down.
    Racehorses dying has always been and will always be part of this business.
    So let’s, for a moment, contemplate a racetrack meet where the HIA is being implemented and guess what?
    There will still be racehorses dying because it’s inevitable.
    So we will be here to remind the public that their bogus HIA means absolutely nothing because in the end they will see the racehorses laying in the dirt with snapped-off legs or various other grotesque ailments that this business and the parasites who participate/support it are solely responsible for.
    The only moral option is to shut down horse racing.

  2. This is what I addressed in the letter I wrote – drugs are not the issue. I listed the myriad of other abuses and stressed that the industry itself is the problem, and this proposed bill that all these trainers are jumping on and signing is just one more life preserver in a drowning industry. They are so desperate to keep their death machine going, not for the love of the horses like they hollowly claim, but for the pure love of money. I think it’s ironic that they insist that the end of the racing industry will mean the extinction of the Thoroughbred when they themselves butcher these horses by the thousands.
    Not surprisingly, I received no response to my letter. Further proof that this bill is yet another smokescreen created not by people who actually care about the welfare of racehorses, but by people who are desperate to keep their blood money coming in.

  3. These morons maintain that drugs are necessary because pain produces muscle fatigue which produces bone fatigue which can result in catastrophic injury and death. Did it ever occur to these people that call themselves veterinarians that perhaps an animal that is in pain should not be raced at all? Does is occur to them that using drugs to dull the pain is what causes catastrophic injury? Are these apologists actually that stupid, or do they just believe that we are too stupid to see the faulty logic here?

  4. Verlin Jones – from the article “Arizona racehorses are dying at a record rate. The question is: why?” – had this to say regarding the banning of steroidal meds that reduce the horses’ pain; “[not using those medications for pain relief] led to more animals running with pain, altering their gait, and breaking down as a result.”

    Yes, that was Jones, a VETERINARIAN who said that – so in other words, mask the horses’ pain and run them…we don’t want them altering their gaits because of their pain! Never mind that their pain is an indicator of an injury! What a calloused moron!

    And further, this Jones? – from the Paulick Report, March 11, 2019, this; “Verlin Jones’ name may be familiar to readers from a late 2017 case at Prairie Meadows in which his racetrack license was revoked in Iowa in which he allegedly provided syringes filled with Aminorex Plus and Monster Energy booster to an assistant trainer.”

    Jones is one of the veterinarians doing the “inspections” of horses [pre-race] at Turf Paradise.

    You can’t make this stuff up….

    • I just want to say,I don’t trust anyone who makes their living off of gambling. It’s not a sport,sport is human athleticism like myself with tennis. Abusing and using animals is not sport,it’s pure evil…pure evil f’n end of story PERIOD. Let’s quit trying to say it in all different ways,people are evil,animals aren’t PERIOD. Let’s quit talking and just shut it down ALREADY.

  5. Thank to all of you who called out the criminally ridiculous argument put forth by Dr. Jones! According to experts not whoring themselvesracing industry, “Bone fatigue” is caused by not allowing sufficient time and rest for the bone to heal itself from the microscopic stress fractures sustained during training and racing. trainingBy using drugs to mask pain,

    • God bless you,and thank you Mac. You nailed it,couldn’t have been said better.

  6. Thank you, Patrick, for pointing out — in detail — everything that is WRONG with this creepy Industry — the title, the Horse-racing Integrity Act, “sounds good” BUT it’s a big lie — to care about Horses when, IN FACT, the industry does NOT give a damn — wow, how desperate this heinous industry must be — I do not want to stop them from making money — they CAN continue making their big bucks, BUT the Horses MUST be KEPT OUT of it –it just takes a little creativity (they can do it) — in the meantime, let’s continue to FIGHT for these magnificent Horses, until they’re all roaming about on a Horse Sanctuary.

  7. Another study was featured in the Paulick Report yesterday or the day before, stating that bursts of speed actually strengthen 2 year old horses’ bones, and that horses who are raced at 2 years of age are stronger and less inclined to breakdowns than horses who begin their careers at age 3 and up. Right. Another ‘study’ that puts it’s own spin on it’s own interests. You simply do not push a baby as hard as an adult, period. Face it. Racing people will never change. Horses will continue to be abused & used up, and many will die for this sport. And those who make it out alive? Fillies and mares will be turned into foaling machines, with never a year off until they die in the foaling shed, or simply cannot get in foal anymore. Then, who knows what their fates will be? So many breeders use that awful word cull. And stallions are bred and bred, and when the breeding is done here, they are shuttled to the southern hemisphere to breed some more. These horses wind up with neck problems and neurological disorders from being forced to breed way too much every year.
    This has to stop. All of it.

  8. For years, I thought horse races were just like the movie National Velvet, with “The PI” and a starry eyed Elizabeth Taylor. You folks know, but many people have no idea how wicked the business is…… It needs to stop. But where will all these horses end up if it would stop?

  9. We can live without horseracing or we can live without torturing and killing horses, or any other LIVING BEING. Human animals are NOT SPECIAL.

  10. Then it is time to end horse racing. Seems it’s only for an owner to make money on the back of a beautiful thoroughbred. Maybe it’s time for the owner to get a job!

  11. This is outragous!!!! These people,owners,trainers tenny tiny worthless riders right down to the spectators,are filth!!! They are no better than the dog meat market killers!!! This is criminal!! They are LEGAL serial killers,legally they can NOT harm abuse torture and kill humans. So let’s go to next best thing. Our GOVERMENT is to blame. They have the ability to change this!! WE THE PEOPLE DEMAND TO BE HEARD!!! GOVERMENT DO YOUR JOBS!!! This is criminal. I am sooooo ashamed to be an American. So there mr president,I’m not racist im a human an American human bashing my goverment,you all are sick cowards that live for power fame and mony. Do your jobs stop and ban these barbaric atrosities!! These are living,breathing FEELING BEINGS,THAT HAVE EVERY RIGHT to be treated with RESPECT!! horse helped make this #$@%ing country great!! Stupid idiots!!!

  12. Wish I could express myself that way. I say basically the same thing. Its criminal and our goverment allows it. Money grubbing cowards!

  13. This makes me so sad that I can NOT watch racing anymore. This sport could be restructured so be more humane to these beautiful animals. The will is NOT there strictly because of profit!!

  14. We are at a crucial point now. We do not support reform, but a leading a ban on horse racing. This cruel business that cares nothing about the horses will stop. There is a lot of mixed messages coming from people in the industry spinning their story that banning horse racing will increase the homeless population in Los Angeles. The people in the industry are not talking about the horses they are diverting attention away from the horses.

    • That line about “banning horse racing will increase the homeless population in Los Angeles” made me laugh because it is so incredibly STUPID!!!!! It is RIDICULOUS and has absolutely nothing to do with horseracing or banning horse racing in California or any state.

  15. Speaking of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, more self-indictment in a pro-racing article by racing-employed USTA Director David Siegel…

    “There has been much publicity about the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 (HISA). As a United States Trotting Association (USTA) director and active participant in the racing side of the business as an owner and a driver, and also as an executive in a business that touches upon both Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, I have paid close attention to the long-term efforts by both breed organizations to get uniform rules and uniform enforcement along with the creation of disincentives for participants to cheat.

    “In sum, all of these efforts have failed. Focusing on harness racing, my true passion, anyone who does not believe that the industry is experiencing rampant cheating is living in a dream world.”

    Anyone who DOES NOT BELIEVE that the industry is experiencing RAMPANT CHEATING is LIVING IN A DREAM WORLD.

    • 1) It is well-known that there is rampant cheating in horse racing.
      2) All of the efforts to stop cheating in horse racing have failed.
      3) Horse racing continues…

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