Better oversight is needed for US horse racing, says HSUS boss


The head of the Humane Society of the United States wants an end to doping in American racing, suggesting the “patchwork” of 38 state racing commissions does not provide good enough industry oversight.

Society president and chief executive Wayne Pacelle suggests US racing has been resistant and even hostile to change, despite a substantial number of people within the industry advocating for reform.

There were, he asserted, widespread, documented, and endemic problems within the industry.

Pacelle, writing in his blog, A Humane Nation, said the federal Interstate Horseracing Act provided a legal framework for wagering in all the horse racing states.

“But animal care and welfare is exclusively a state responsibility as a regulatory matter, with different rules applying from state to state.

“This patchwork of 38 state racing commissions often involve industry insiders overseeing trainers and owners and jockeys in the industry, creating built-in conflicts.

“The balkanized regulatory framework allows unscrupulous owners and trainers to shop their horses to jurisdictions where they can get away with cheating — administering performance-enhancing drugs to mask pain or to get injured horses on the track, making the animals more vulnerable to breakdowns or other significant health crises.”

Pacelle said football, cycling, and all other major sports had a national regulatory body that provided oversight and a framework for enforcement.

“Horse racing should have national oversight too. They’ve had decades to get their act together through self-regulation, and it hasn’t worked.”

He noted there were leaders within the industry who believed it had a moral obligation to take all reasonable steps to protect and enhance the welfare of the horses at the heart and soul of the sport and business of racing.

The HSUS backed the Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 that would establish a uniform set of rules, testing procedures, and penalties created by a board headed by the non-profit US Anti-Doping Agency.

“That same anti-doping agency monitors Olympic sports in the United States, and it’s ready and willing to rid racing of unethical drugging and doping of horses if Congress authorizes it to do so.”

Pacelle said the US owed a debt of gratitude to horses.

“If we are going to put them to work for our entertainment, and use their gift of great speed, we must do so with tender care and take every reasonable step to assure their safety, at every stage of their lives.

“They are remarkable athletes, and many of them may love to compete, but they are conscripted into this enterprise. They are not volunteers.

“It is not too much to ask Congress — which enables this entire industry to operate by allowing gambling nationwide through the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 — to advance legislation that will put an end to practices that are disabling and killing horses and causing injury and sometimes death to jockeys on the tracks every day of the year in the United States.”

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