Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Racetracks Adopt New "Get Tough" Policies Against Trainers Who Send Horses to Kill Auctions

For years, the powers that be at American racetracks have blithely turned their backs on a terrible truth: every day, on every backstretch across the country, broken down thoroughbreds are purchased for "meat money" and packaged into crowded vans for the beginning of a a journey to the hell of a slaugterhouse.

In just the last few months, though, the management of a few--primarily East Coast--tracks have taken a meaningful stand against this inhumane practice, and are now not only holding trainers accountable for what happens to their horses after they leave their care, but are enforcing the rules with stiff penalties, including loss of stable privileges.

In today's, in an article appropriately entitled, "Furious," Virginia trainer Diane McClure chronicles some of her recent visits to "kill pens" in Sugarcreek, Ohio and New Holland, Pennsylvania, where she was able to identify numerous thoroughbreds who had raced within the previous seven days.

In particular, she describes the plight of a lame and emaciated three-year-old gelding, Falcon Fury, whom she found at the New Holland kill pen, about three weeks after his last start at Delaware Park. As it happened, an owner and trainer for whom McClure works had previously owned Falcon Fury, and when they were notified of his plight, they vowed to do whatever was necessary to save him from his certain fate: shipment out of the country to a Canadian slaughterhouse. Through their intervention, Delaware Park officials also became involved. They required that Falcon Fury's last trainer (the person who had sold him to a kill dealer) pay the costs of buying the injured gelding back from the dealer and of shipping him to a facility where the horrified previous owner agreed to underwrite his care.

Earlier this summer, Suffolk Downs banned all killer dealers from its backstretch, and has notified all of the trainers on its grounds that if any of them ship horses into the slaughterhouse pipeline, they will immediately lose their right to stable and train horses at the East Boston racetrack.

These are laudable examples of what McClure calls "zero tolerance" for "shedrow-to-slaughter practices." Owners, trainers, and racetracks need to work together to create formal policies to protect "used" racehorses, and then ante up the resources to support humane retirement options.

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