House Energy and Commerce hearing focuses on horse deaths |

House Energy and Commerce hearing focuses on horse deaths

Reacting to the deaths of horses on tracks throughout the United States, the House Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee held a hearing today to consider a bill to address some of the problems.

The bill would ban race-day medication and designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the independent organization that would oversee and administer all drug testing in U.S. horseracing.

The USADA is a nonprofit, nongovernmental agency recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sports.

H.R. 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act, has been introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., and Andy Barr, R-Ky. The Senate companion bill, S. 1820, was introduced by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Martha McSally, R-

Ariz., in 2019.

“The public sentiment is very rapidly shifting from a desire to end doping to concerns about the very existence of the sport itself,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action, who testified at the hearing.

“If Congress fails to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act, and obstructionists within the industry continue to hinder the legislation, then those who demand horseracing be brought to an end will prevail.”

Irby noted that “Animal Wellness Action does not oppose horseracing,” but joins with “many horse owners, breeders, trainers, and racing enthusiasts … to promote the proper stewardship of horses at every stage of their lives, including during their racing careers.”

“Horses are dying at alarming rates on racetracks across the country, posing a serious animal wellness problem,” Irby said.

“2019 was a tumultuous and tragic year in American horseracing, and 2020 has begun in quite the same vein,” he said.“This epidemic has gained nationwide attention and concern — 42 horses have died at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California since December of 2018.

“There have been countless deaths on U.S. racetracks that continue year after year, decade after decade. While there are a number of issues at play concerning fatal injuries to horses in American racing, the overuse of therapeutic drugs — such as powerful pain-masking agents — is one area where change is desperately needed.”

At present, Irby said, horseracing operates under a balkanized patchwork of rules that creates confusion and risk and contains gaps in enforcement.

On Wednesday the House Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee will hear testimony on a number of food-related bills including the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, H.R. 961, introduced by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. That bill would declare horse meat to be unsafe for domestic or foreign consumption.

–The Hagstrom Report