LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Animal rights group PETA is taking an unusual approach to dealing with alleged mistreatment of horses out at race tracks.
“We wanted to take our case directly to the shareholders who own those tracks and explain to them that it’s not only the right thing to do, the humane thing to do, but it also makes good business sense,” said Kathy Guillermo, Senior Vice President of Equine Matters at PETA.
PETA has been a longtime critic of many of the practices in horse racing, which makes its latest move hard to believe.
Just days before the Breeders' Cup, one of the biggest racing events of the year, PETA purchased stock in Boyd Gaming—the parent company of Delta Downs Racetrack—in order to take its case for ending cruel practices straight to the boardroom.
“What we have found over and over again is that once we purchase stock, we can often bring these companies to the table to discuss what are very common sense issues," said Guillermo. "I’m talking about the things that will prevent the deaths of horses on the tracks.”
Guillermo says some of the changes they’re seeking through buying stock in Delta Downs Parent company include:
“getting rid of all medications 2 weeks before a race, switching from dirt to synthetic track because we know there are fewer deaths that way, making sure there is CT scan imaging at the tracks.”
Currently, more than three horses die on North American tracks every day and medications are overused to keep injured horses racing when they should be recuperating, among other deadly practices. PETA’s proposed changes include replacing dirt tracks with high-quality synthetic ones, banning trainers who have multiple medication violations, and banning whipping. Tracks will be encouraged to work with state racing authorities when necessary.
She says through buying stock they’ve been able to evoke change at tracks in California and Kentucky...change she says that needs to happen in Southwest Louisiana.
“I think Delta’s got a long way to go...It just makes good sense for Delta to get with the 21st century and embrace some of these new measures," Guillermo said. "We already know that 3 horses have died at Delta this year and they can prevent these deaths and protect horses if they just get on board with what we believe are common-sense rules.”
PETA has also purchased stock in Penn National Gaming, Inc., Gaming and Leisure Properties, Inc., and Vici Properties, Inc. The group’s proposals will also affect Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort and Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia; JACK Thistledown Racino, Belterra Park Gaming, and Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course in Ohio; Evangeline Downs Racetrack & Casino in Louisiana; Retama Park and Sam Houston Race Park in Texas; Zia Park Casino Hotel & Racetrack in New Mexico; and Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Pennsylvania.
PETA previously worked with the California Horse Racing Board to implement mandatory investigations into the deaths of horses and increased drug testing for horses, among other new regulations.
- Ban all medications for two weeks before a race
Thousands of necropsies conducted at the University of California–Davis show that most Thoroughbreds who break bones on tracks had pre-existing injuries at the site of the break.
In the weeks leading up to a race, horses are often administered a cocktail of anti-inflammatories, painkillers, sedatives, and muscle relaxants that can kill any chance of visually observing lameness.
- Allow horses who are injured or sore sufficient time to recuperate before they are trained or raced
- Install cutting-edge CT scan equipment at all tracks
Sometimes, bone injuries can’t be identified visually, even when the horses haven’t been administered multiple pain-masking medications. However, technology developed by CurveBeam can still detect these injuries. This low-radiation technology can provide three-dimensional scans of a horse’s legs in just a few minutes, allowing for many horses to be screened quickly. Horses can be walked onto the scanner, which has no visible moving parts and then simply walked off.
- Replace dirt tracks with high-quality synthetic Tapeta
- Ban trainers who have multiple medication infractions or harm horses in other ways
- Ban whipping
- Eliminate timed sprints at 2-year-old–in–training auctions
- Be transparent
- Don’t sell horses to foreign racing entities that routinely send them to slaughter
- Take care of horses when their racing days are over
- Conduct mandatory, unannounced, frequent, and random out-of-competition testing