Investigations Underway After The Tragic Deaths Of 12 Race Horses At Churchill Downs Since April 27th Of This Year

On May 18th, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer was joined by 15 other members of Congress to deliver a bipartisan letter urging the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) for a full investigation into the tragic deaths of eight horses that occurred leading up to this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 6th. Four more horses have also reportedly died since the event, bringing the total number of deaths since April 27th to 12.

“This magnitude of animal suffering is an unacceptable price to pay for entertainment,” stated the letter that was addressed to Lisa Lazarus, CEO of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. “Unfortunately, these deaths are not isolated events. According to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, between 2009-2021, a staggering 7,274 thoroughbred equine fatalities occurred.”

In her most recent statement on May 29th, in response to the heartbreaking situation, Lazarus noted that, “HISA’s highest priority is the safety and well-being of the horses and riders competing under its jurisdiction. We remain deeply concerned by the unusually high number of equine fatalities at Churchill Downs over the last several weeks. We continue to seek answers and we are working diligently with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to mitigate any additional risk.”

In addition to conducting a thorough and independent investigation of each fatality, HISA announced this week the following:

  1. HISA held an emergency veterinary summit yesterday in Kentucky. This summit convened the Churchill Downs, KHRC, and HISA veterinary teams to thoroughly review all veterinary information available and conduct additional analysis in hopes of better understanding the events surrounding the recent fatalities.

  2. HISA has dispatched seasoned track superintendent Dennis Moore to provide a second and independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces. During the course of this review, which begins today, HISA’s CEO Lisa Lazarus and Racetrack Safety Director Ann McGovern will also travel to Churchill Downs to receive the results of the analysis and any suggested follow-up.

  3. HISA has also dispatched its Director of Equine Safety and Welfare, Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, to provide additional veterinary expertise and observation on-site at Churchill Downs to ensure optimal veterinary oversight of the horses.

HISA continues to monitor this situation closely and will evaluate any additional next steps as appropriate.

“This year’s Triple Crown season has been defined by a string of equine deaths, a somber reminder that horse racing comes with tremendous and unacceptable risks to the horses involved,” Dr. Joanna Grossman, equine program director and senior advisor for the Animal Welfare Institute, said in an email sent to WAN. “Horses should not have to lose their lives in service to the profit-driven racing industry.”

While there is much more to be done, earlier this month, after numerous delays, one of the steps to help protect horses involved in this controversial industry occurred when the Anti-Doping and Medication Control Program (ADMC) under the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) resumed on May 22nd. 

“For the first time in the storied history of Thoroughbred racing, there will be one set of uniform, consistent rules across all racing jurisdictions. Under the ADMC program, there will also be greater efficiency for all participants and real consequences for those who seek to break the rules for their own benefit and to the detriment of the horses under their care. The rules also create a rational, fair system for adjudicating penalties and taking into account environmental and other accidental contamination,” concluded the letter from members of Congress.

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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