Preventable Deaths On The Racetrack Must Stop Now
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Racing horses are being put at unnecessary risk of pain and death; we need a Federal Horse Racing Commission to protect them.
It's a horrifying fact that many racing fans, tourists, and spectators are unaware of: thousands of horses have died on American race tracks in the last decade1. Most of these deaths happen in states that receive federal subsidies for racing facilities.
Many of these horse deaths are the result of weak or non-existent regulations covering the drugs that are administered to horses before and after races. For example, the diuretic Lasix, also known as furosemide, is given to horses to prevent their lungs from filling up with blood during and after a race.
According to InsideScience2, "The volume and pressure of both the blood and air entering and exiting is so forceful that it can break through the thin blood-gas barrier of the alveoli, causing blood to enter the lungs. It's estimated that around 90 percent of racehorses experience at least some amount of bleeding." The more the horses run, the more they bleed, typically leading to permanent lung damage. Few horses require Lasix to prevent respiratory failure, but nearly all racing horses are given the drug.
Anabolic steroids3 are often administered to racing horses - much in the same way they are to athletes. They enhance muscle development, much to the detriment of other vital organs. But these horses are also given many other drugs that humans typically don't use, including etorphine, an elephant tranquilizer, butazolidin, to reduce inflammation, and propantheline bromide, a muscle relaxer.
The result is horses who are exhausted but artificially amped up, who can't feel when they are putting too much stress on their limbs, and who are euthanized on the track after their bodies invariably - and often painfully - give out from exhaustion or injury.4
There is no excuse for this kind of mistreatment and high death rate. An independent horse racing anti-doping authority under the leadership of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, supported by the Horseracing Integrity Act5, can help put an end to this abuse. Introduced in March 2019, it would create a uniform national standard for drug testing.
Add your signature below to tell Congress to support the Horseracing Integrity Act. Thousands of horse lives depend on it.
- Horse racing deaths mount as states spend billions to keep tracks alive, USA Today, November 3, 2019
- The Science and Controversy Behind Horse Racing’s Most Popular Race Day Drug, Inside Science, September 29, 2012
- Drug Use, Horse Racing Kills, December 28, 2004
- Why So Many Horses Have Died at Santa Anita, New York Times, June 26, 2019
- Horseracing Integrity Act Reintroduced, 'Back In The Starting Gate' For Congress, Paul Lick Report, March 14, 2019
Dear House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,
The people of the United States have been continually disappointed and disgusted by the growing number of horses euthanized at race tracks, and the refusal of the 38 states which allow horseracing to implement protectionary measures to bring these numbers down.
The horse racing industry has become a sideshow of torture tourism. Thousands of racing horses have died or have been euthanized because of serious injuries in the last decade, close to 40 in 2019 on the Santa Anita track alone.
Many of those deaths are related to the overuse of drugs like anabolic steroids, Lasix, tranquilizers, and propantheline bromide, which face differing regulations, if any at all, between states. This industry is in desperate need of oversight, which the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is uniquely qualified to handle.
There is no excuse for these deaths to continue in the United States. The federal government has the authority to create an independent horse racing anti-doping authority under the leadership of the USADA, with uniform rules, testing procedures, lab accreditations and penalties, and provide greater protection for our horses.
I implore you to make this a reality by passing the Horseracing Integrity Act.