House passes bill to ban doping horses on race day

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act moves on to the Senate.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban doping horses on race day as well as install federal regulations over the sport to help ensure the animals’ safety.

In addition to banning race-day medication — a key concern tied to the safety and well-being of the animals — the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would establish a uniform set of track safety standards and put in place a uniform anti-doping and medication control program at all 38 racing jurisdictions.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

“This legislation tackles some of the key reasons behind the growing numbers of racehorse deaths in recent years, including the rampant doping of these animals with performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers that mask pain in order to allow injured horses to train or race,” a statement from the Humane Society reads. “Racehorses would only be allowed to compete if they are free from such drugs.”

PHOTO: John Velazquez rides Authentic in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.,  Sept. 5, 2020.

John Velazquez rides Authentic in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 5, 2020.

John Velazquez rides Authentic in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 5, 2020.

The proposed legislation comes after years of controversial horse deaths and animal welfare advocates calling for federal regulation of horse racing. In March 2019, Southern California’s Santa Anita Park introduced a zero-tolerance policy for almost all medication on race day after dozens of horses died within months of beginning the season.

An average of 8.5 horses died during races every week in 2019, according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. This number does not include horses that died during training.

“This is an animal protection crisis, and we commend House members for their swift and decisive vote to end it,” Humane Society CEO and President Kitty Block said in a statement.

The bill is supported by Churchill Downs Incorporated, the Louisville-based operator of the Kentucky Derby, The Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, according to the Humane Society.

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Wildfires, wild horses among top concerns Utah’s ag community brought to Interior chief

SALT LAKE CITY — The looming threat of catastrophic wildfires, the overpopulation of wild horses and rangeland conditions for livestock were among the top concerns the agricultural community aired with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt during a Friday roundtable discussion in Utah.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the conversation — and complaints — did not go unheeded by Bernhardt, who grew up in Colorado and was visiting Utah for a number of events.

“He’s very familiar with Western issues,” Lee said. “These are controversial and difficult issues. … He has not lost sight of Westerners.”

Bernhardt, in a telephone interview after the roundtable, said one of the chief complaints raised by livestock producers is the need for better management of rangeland to prevent wildfires or degradation from wild horses.

“The reality is they would like to see more active management of our rangeland, which would minimize devastating wildfires, which is exactly what the president is proposing and doing,” he said.

The Interior Department, in fact, is on the cusp of making significant management changes for how some fuels are addressed, he said.

“We are about to finalize a (new rule) for rapid treatment related to pinion juniper that will be very significant for the state of Utah,” he said.

That rule would allow the agency to do more vegetation treatments on a yearly basis, he added.

Lee said the action is critical given the impacts of catastrophic wildfires to property, life and livestock producers who have seen the charred bodies of the animals they care for.

“It really is a heart-breaking issue and a deep concern to everyone,” he said, pointing a finger at federal policies he says have fostered neglect of landscapes over the years.

“It ends up being an environmental disaster on top of everything else.”

Brian Steed, director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, attended Friday’s roundtable on agricultural issues and said it was a fruitful discussion, especially when it came to rangeland management, wild horses and grazing.

“We have been working together with the wildlife community and agricultural producers over the years and that is the benefit of reducing catastrophic wildfire through these partnerships,” he said.

Noting that wildfires don’t respect geopolitical boundaries, Steed said it is critical that the state and federal government play well together.

“We have a pretty good working relationship with our federal partners in the BLM trying to identify those areas most likely to burn,” he said.

The number of wild horses in Utah — far beyond the established federal limit — was raised as a concern from both the grazing community and Steed’s agency, which has oversight of wildlife such as deer and antelope.

“Wild horses are always something we are concerned about,” he said.

Within the Interior Department, the Bureau of Land Management has oversight of wild horse and burro populations in Western states.

Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah BLM, said the agency has been successful this year at removing a number of wild horses in the state,

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House committee to hear proposed bill that would ban doping of horses on race day

Animal welfare advocates have been calling for federal regulations.

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce plans to hear a proposed bill that would ban the doping of horses on race day — a key concern over the safety and wellbeing of racehorses.

The Committee is expected to amend and approve the Horseracing Integrity Act, or H.R. 1754, which would establish the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority as an independent, private non-profit corporation.

The authority, which would be overseen by the Federal Trade Commission, would be responsible for developing and administering an anti-doping and medication control program for racehorses as well as the personnel engaged in the care, training, or racing of the horses.

PHOTO: Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

Authentic #18, ridden by jockey John Velazquez and the field break from the starting gate during the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 05, 2020.

The bill was introduced in March 2019 by U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. If approved, it would be taken up on the House floor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced on Aug. 31 he would introduce compromise legislation, named the Horseracing Safety and Integrity (HISA) Act, which would incorporate many of the key provisions within H.R. 1754.

The proposed legislation comes after years of controversial horse deaths and animal welfare advocates calling for federal regulation of horse racing. In March 2019, Southern California’s Santa Anita Park introduced a zero-tolerance policy for almost all medication on race day after dozens of horses died within months of beginning the season.

“The doping of American racehorses has been a controversial issue over the past five years with hundreds of horses dying on racetracks annually, and the indictment of 37 trainers and veterinarians in March of 2020,” the Animal Wellness Action said in a statement Tuesday.

The legislation is supported by all three Triple Crown racetracks as well as the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, according to Animal Wellness Action.

“With the anticipated successful mark up in the House Energy and Commerce Committee today, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020 will take a significant step forward toward passage in the House,” Humane Society President and CEO Kitty Block told ABC News in a statement. “The bill mirrors language being introduced today by Senate Majority Leader McConnell representing a state with deep economic stakes in racing

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