Senate committees hear racing safety concerns

POSTED ON  |  07-06-2019

Senate hearing on horse racing
CAPITOL -- Just days away from the Belmont Stakes and barely a month ahead of Saratoga Race Course's opening, state senators on Wednesday heard about concerns for race horse safety in New York state. Equine injuries and deaths during races or in training have drawn national attention this spring because of more than 20 deaths at Santa Anita in California, but state officials said New York is already ahead of other states in dealing with the risks of racing. "New York has been a consistent leader, below the national average [in track deaths], below the mid-Atlantic average," said Dr. Scott Palmer, equine medical director for the New York State Gaming Commission.

But the joint hearing of the Senate standing committees on Racing, Gaming and Wagering and Domestic Animal Welfare also heard from advocacy groups who condemned horse racing as exploitative and cruel, and condemned the lack of attention to post-retirement care for horses, some of which end up being slaughtered for food. "As a two- or three-year-old, all their body components are immature," said veterinarian Dr. Kraig Kulikowski, referring to the racing ages of thoroughbreds. "These athletes are at the Superbowl, these immature athletes, and within a year or two their careers are going to be over."

"If horse racing did not already exist and I came to propose it with accurate numbers on injuries and deaths ... you would not have me," John Scheib, director of Responsible Animal Care Inc., told the senators. "We kill an average of three race horses every day in training or on track."

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