Humane Society to push for federal racing medication rules

The Humane Society of the U.S. announced on Thursday that the animal welfare group intends to increase its focus on horse racing.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society, said that racing is “moving up on our priority list, and we’re going to provide considerable focus on this issue. One of the biggest problems is the doping of horses, which has led to catastrophic breakdowns, horses dying on track.”

The HSUS has formed a National Horse Racing Advisory Council, to be chaired by Joe De Francis, the former CEO of the Maryland Jockey Club. Other members will include Jockey Club president Jim Gagliano, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance board member Stacie Clark Rogers, racing marketing executive Allen Gutterman, former Indiana racing regulator Joe Gorajec, Kentucky Equine Humane Center founder Staci Hancock and Hall of Fame jockey and commentator Chris McCarron.

Pacelle and De Francis said they will lobby for the passage of federal legislation, known as the Thoroughbred Racing Integrity Act, that would turn over the regulation of medication in Thoroughbred racing to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an independent body that has focused on catching blood doping in human athletes.

“It’s time for a national regulatory framework, especially on the issue of the doping of horses,” Pacelle said, rather than 38 state regulatory bodies, often with different rules and testing standards.

“We think that a national industry needs a national regulatory framework. If the industry was able to do it on its own, they could have done it five years ago, 10 years ago. The industry itself has proved self-regulation is not happening,” he said.

While medication is the first priority of the council, De Francis said they also will advise on other issues “not the least of which will be aftercare of horses when racing careers are over to maximize the welfare and minimize slaughter.”

De Francis said that the legislation would turn over to USADA the decision on whether the use of the anti-bleeder medication furosemide, known as Lasix or Salix for veterinary use, should remain legal on race days.

“The use of the term doping refers to both use of illegal drugs as well as the use of medications that are perhaps therapeutic in some sense but can be performance-enhancing and health-threatening,” De Francis said. “I know Lasix is the biggest split in the industry. This leaves that decision to USADA.”