The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Thursday made a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety at California race tracks, but concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing connected to the deaths of dozens of horses over the past year at Santa Anita Park.
“After a thorough investigation and review of the evidence, the district attorney’s task force did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct relating to the equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park,” according to a 17-page report issued by a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officers appointed by District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
Animal-rights activists have been pressuring Lacey to pursue criminal charges over the deaths of 37 horses at the Arcadia track over the past year. The report issued Thursday comes one week before the next racing meet begins at Santa Anita.
The report noted that the number of horse deaths at Santa Anita has fluctuated wildly in recent years, reaching a high of 71 during the 2011-12 fiscal year, a low of 37 in the 2010-11 fiscal year and a total of 49 in 2018-19.
“Horse racing has inherent risks but is a legally sanctioned sport in California,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “Greater precautions are needed to enhance safety and protect both horses and their riders.”
While the report stresses that the District Attorney’s Office has not jurisdiction over the horse-racing industry, Lacey called on state regulators to develop safety enhancements to reduce horse deaths, including possible enhanced penalties for rules violations, establishment of a tip line for people to report violations or animal cruelty allegations and mandated inspections of racing and training facilities, and reviews of necropsy and veterinary records of horses that have died.
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