Horse News

California panel finds no criminal activity linked to horse deaths at Santa Anita Park

A task force that looked into scores of horse deaths at California’s Santa Anita Park found no animal cruelty or criminal activity, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said Thursday.

The number of horses that were being euthanized or dying after accidents at the famed facility gained nationwide attention when officials briefly suspended racing in early March over concerns about the number of deaths.

“Horse racing has inherent risks but is a legally sanctioned sport in California,” Lacey, who led the panel of prosecutors and investigators, said. “Greater precautions are needed to enhance safety and protect both horses and their riders.”

The task force looked into the 56 deaths that occurred between July 1, 2018, and November 30, 2019, and “did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct relating to the equine fatalities.”

The task force, formed in March, had recommendations for post-death investigations, identifying preexisting conditions, track maintenance and enforcement. It proposed an annual fatality report, facility investigations, enhanced penalties for violations, and establishment of a tip line to encourage reporting of suspected animal abuse.

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, said it remains committed to “the highest level of equine safety and welfare” and would work to implement the recommendations.

The California Horse Racing Board said it agreed with Lacey’s findings. It said some reforms are already in place while others are being implemented.

Santa Anita reopened for racing in late March there were numerous changes: Trainers had to apply two days in advance before working out a horse; jockeys had to replace whips with softer “cushion crops” and restrictions on steroids, anti-inflammation drugs and race-day medications were instituted.

The task force report says improved safety policies had “reduced the number of fatal racing and training incidents.”

The report shows the 49 deaths in the fiscal year (July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019) were higher than the previous fiscal year but lower than the two years before then.

“Since 2009, the national average for catastrophic racing breakdowns has declined almost 20 percent,” the report says.

The number of deaths listed in the report differs from those in recent media stories because the panel looked at a longer period of time. It included 49 deaths from the fiscal year 2018-2019 and seven since then. It also includes two horses that were not racers.

4 replies »

  1. There are no words to describe how much this disturbs me. It’s atrocious that the regulator and industry continue to put profit before animal welfare. But what’s even more distressing is the lack of outcry from the horse racing going public and public in general. I don’t understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s hard to keep up with everything but if anyone has some names and addresses and suggested wording for us to send in our comments on this continuing animal abuse … please post it here.
    As stated in the above comment,
    “It’s atrocious that the regulator and industry continue to put profit before animal welfare” and I would like to tell “them” that.
    Thank you.


  3. Just because they found nothing that is considered”criminal” doesn’t mean there aren’t things being done to horses in horse racing that should be considered criminal. Everything from the age they start racing the horses to giving the medications before race days but not on them to mask symptoms, in my book should not be allowed. If This were football or boxing and we had these many deaths there would be outrage. but because these are four-legged creatures who can’t speak for themselves the carnage continues.

    Liked by 1 person

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