Breaking! California Governor Gavin Newsom Signs Bill To Strengthen Horse Safety & Hold Santa Anita Racetrack Accountable After The Tragic Deaths Of 30 Race Horses

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In a move to improve horse safety and bring a greater level of transparency and accountability to racetracks, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 469 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) yesterday and announced the appointment of seasoned veterinarian Gregory Ferraro to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). SB 469 would allow the CHRB to suspend horse racing licenses when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.

The bill comes weeks after Governor Newsom directed CHRB to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park to provide additional examination and determine if an individual horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita Park since this new review process was established earlier this month.

“I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials,” Governor Newsom said in a statement, further noting that business as usual is unacceptable when so many horses die. “I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita.”

Currently, short of an allegation of an actual rule violation, the CHRB is limited in its ability to take action against a licensee to limit, place conditions on or suspend a racing license. SB 469 will update the law to allow the CHRB to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk.

“Putting the safety of horses first is paramount,” said Senator Dodd, the author of SB 469. “I appreciate Governor Newsom’s partnership and swift action in supporting this commonsense measure to allow the Horse Racing Board to halt racing when dangerous conditions exist.”

The Governor’s new appointee to the CHRB, Gregory Ferraro, 73, of San Francisco, was the director of the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for Equine Health from 1997 to 2014.

“It’s a good first step,” Judie Mancuso, Founder and President of Social Compassion In Legislation, one of the many animal welfare organizations to support SB 469, told WAN. “However, it is based on being reactive versus proactive. Next, we need to pass legislation that will help prevent deaths from happening. That is what we are currently working on.”

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