In response to the increasing number of horse racing deaths in California, including the death of 26 horses at Santa Anita Park, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced his support for SB 469, which would authorize the California Horse Racing Board to suspend horse racing licenses to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.
“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the authority to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”
In addition to supporting SB 469 by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, the governor also announced that his administration has taken substantive regulatory actions through the horse racing board in response to the recent horse deaths in the state. The board has:
- Initiated special investigations into all fatalities at Santa Anita this year. Investigations are being conducted by a team of sworn CHRB investigators, an official veterinarian and a safety steward.
- Suspended authorization of 11 previously lawful corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications from being present in race horses on race day at all tracks in California. This will prevent the masking-effect such medications can have in hiding a horses existing injuries from examining veterinarians on race day.
- Increased official veterinarian, safety steward and investigator staffing at Santa Anita.
- Proposed five regulatory packages to:
- Eliminate use of the riding crop in racing, except in cases of emergency.
- Require trainers maintain records of all veterinary medications, treatments and procedures performed on a horse in their care (for purposes of CHRB inspections).
- Make the boards existing Postmortem Examination Review a mandatory requirement for all trainers who have a horse die in their care. This is currently a voluntary program.
- Prohibit use of bisphosphonates, which is a class of drug that prevents loss of bone density.
- Restrict the amount of anti-inflammatory medications that may be present in a horses body when working out at a CHRB-licensed facility.
A new regulation going into effect July 1 will greatly expand out-of-competition testing and provide a means for the board to prosecute offenders who abuse prescribed medications.