Industry, Animal Welfare Groups Applaud Passage of HISA

POSTED ON  |  03-01-2021

Bill Carstanjen
After the Senate approved the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act late Dec. 21, the coalition of industry and animal welfare groups that backed it after years of effort expressed their eagerness for its implementation. The Senate advanced HISA when it approved an omnibus bill Monday night crafted around a $1.4 trillion funding package that would prevent a government shutdown. As part of the omnibus bill HISA, the industry landmark legislation that would overhaul oversight of racing's drug and medication rules and its equine drug testing, now awaits President Donald Trump's signature. 

The industry legislation already had been passed by the House of Representatives. The House action followed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky) voicing his support for the legislation—with some tweaks to the previous House bill—in an Aug. 31 press conference at Keeneland. The House bill was updated to include those changes and approved about a month later.

McConnell believes the legislation, which had bipartisan support, will strengthen Kentucky's signature industry. "Kentucky's cherished horse racing traditions deserve to be protected. I'm proud the Senate agreed to pass my legislation to preserve our signature racing industry and the 24,000 workers who support it," McConnell said. "With the leadership of Congressman Andy Barr and the partnership of sport leaders, horse advocates, and fans, we're one step closer to promoting fairness and safety across Thoroughbred racing. As Majority Leader, I made this Kentucky-focused legislation a top priority in the Senate. I look forward to this major advancement for our beloved sport becoming law." 

On the House side, the bipartisan legislation was championed by Barr (Republican, Kentucky) and Rep. Paul Tonko (Democrat, New York). They had noted the state-to-state approach in regulating medication and drug testing had lacked uniformity, relied too much on post-race testing, and too often sees active participants—or people with close ties to the sport's participants—making decisions from their roles on regulatory boards.

Barr believes better days are ahead for horse racing. "With today's passage of HISA in Congress we are in the final stretch of achieving the most transformational and consequential reform of the Thoroughbred horse racing industry since enactment of the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978," Barr said in a release late Monday. "For almost a decade, I have worked with industry stakeholders and my Congressional colleagues to build consensus around reforms that will protect equine athletes and strengthen confidence and international competitiveness in the sport.  

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