Horse News

Congress passes act to standardize safety rules within horse racing

John Cherwa as published on The LA Times

The Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on Monday as part of the year-end federal funding bill and COVID-19 rescue package. It will become law when signed by President Trump in the next couple of days.

The act hopes to standardize medication and safety rules in horse racing nationwide. The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita; the New York Racing Assn.; and Churchill Downs Inc. all supported the measure, as did independent tracks such as Del Mar and Keeneland. The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would oversee testing and medication violations.

The HSIA was six years in the making, started in the House by Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.). However, the bill never gained enough traction to become law until this year. On Aug. 31, at a news conference in Lexington, Ky., state racing organizations praised Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he agreed to endorse a bill that would align with legislation in the House. As Senate majority leader, McConnell can bring a bill to the Senate floor or keep it from doing so. His sign-on was vital to its eventual passage.

On Sept. 9, McConnell introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). McSally is no longer in the Senate, losing a special election in November.

On Sept. 29, the House approved the measure in a voice vote. But the bill did not appear on the Senate docket for a vote until it was added to the omnibus bill.

“Our Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act … [puts] the well-being of our horses and jockeys front and center, delivering common sense medication reforms and track safety standards that will restore public trust and confidence,” said Tonko, who represents the district that includes Saratoga Race Course in New York. “I am delighted to see our legislation finally reach the winner’s circle and I look forward to ensuring a strong implementation of these new standards so that the sport of horse racing can thrive for generations to come.”

The bill also hopes to bring national transparency in the area of horse fatalities.

“It’s important that we establish national standards for horse racing in this country,” Feinstein told The Times before the passage of the bill. “While some states like California have been relatively aggressive in instituting stronger safety measures, other states have lagged behind.

“For example, when the problems started at Santa Anita last year, we had a very difficult time finding reliable information on horse fatality rates at other racetracks because each state reports that information differently or not at all. To make progress on protecting racehorses, we need to have consistent information and high standards throughout the country.”

This action would, in most ways, supplant some of the authority of the 38 state agencies that oversee racing. It is unclear whether any states will challenge the law as unconstitutional based on states’ rights.

While the Act is said to standardize rules nationwide, it is the belief that states could impose more strict regulations, so there would only be a minimum standard rather than a national standard.

Funding for managing the new agency that would oversee racing would have to be paid for by the states. Specifics are still lacking. Scott Chaney, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, estimated it could cost the state between $1 million and $1.2 million per year. Because the CHRB relies mostly on mutuel handle for its funding, the money would likely come from owners, who would have to pay an additional $30 to $40 to start a horse in a race.

Those figures are just guesses at this point, as the Act is more of a concept than a plan at this time. It would take at least a year for any of its measures to be implemented.

7 replies »

  1. Well – about time – now we see if it actually changes anything. Dont see anything there about protecting horses AFTER their racing days are done – now THAT would be something to cheer about. Altho every little bit of humane changes help.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, I guess it’s a start! I am not real optimistic about this! They still are breaking YEARLINGS whose knees haven’t closed and whose bones are extremely tender! And then just push them to extremes as two and three year olds! The vets get paid by the owners. Their Oath to me is a joke! My Half Arabian was just 6 and is just going thru saddle training! And I still consider her a youngster! It sure is ALL about the MONEY still! And how about those Throughbreds still showing up in kill pens half dead! In fact, one showed up this past week in a kill pen tattoo messed up so you couldn’t read it. Description fit a filly who recently just raced the end of November! And what about all the DIRECT SHIPS that NO one cares to hear about! I am told the Throughbred Organization have done rehoming programs. And I think that’s great! I hope they are helping all the small rescues like Gail Vaccas in Illinois! And what about the Safe Act? Criminals will find a way around this! Until auction houses and slaughter pens are cleaned up, I really don’t have much hope! In some race tracks hidden away in back barns these horses will be administered other drugs! Then will either DIE on the tracks or again will be loaded into a horse trailer in some barn located in a desolute area of the track!
    And sent to slaughter directly or auction then SLAUGHTER! Good luck! The wealthy always get their way! Don’t they!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like this did indeed pass into law, on Dec. 27:

    “Included in the $2.3 trillion package is the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act, a piece of landmark industry legislation that will overhaul oversight of racing’s drug and medication rules and its equine drug testing.

    The Senate advanced the HISA Dec. 21 after the legislation had already passed in 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.”

    Liked by 1 person

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