santa anita
A race at Santa Anita Park. Photo courtesy the park

Two bills intended to boost safety and transparency in horse racing in response to a spate of deaths at Santa Anita Park were signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

AB 1974 by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, codifies and expands upon several recommendations contained in the California Horse Racing Board’s December 2019 memo to Newsom and its March report on fatalities at Santa Anita Park.

The bill creates what Newsom called the strongest state rules and protocols in horse racing, establishes new criteria for examination of thoroughbreds and quarter horses, requires all horses at licensed meets to be subject to veterinary monitoring during morning training, and creates new rules for medication administration.

The bill also expands veterinary monitoring and screening to morning training and other related activities and establishes criteria for examination of thoroughbreds and quarter horses to determine eligibility and appropriateness to enter a race.

The bill additionally requires all horses at licensed thoroughbred, fair, or quarter horse race meets to be subject to veterinary monitoring during morning training and establishes specified prohibitions on trainers for the application of medications unless the medication is prescribed for that specific horse and administered strictly in accordance with CHRB regulations.

The bill also creates new requirements on how horses that are unsound or lame be placed on the veterinarian’s list and ensures the use of diagnostic imaging to be an accepted component of prerace examinations by an examining veterinarian.

SB 800 by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, requires the California Horse Racing Board to publish weekly horse fatalities that occur within a licensed facility, authorizes veterinarians to make available the entire medical records of race horses to specified parties involved in horse racing, and requires the board to post results of nonconfidential official racehorse drug test results within five business days of test confirmation.

“The horse racing industry must accept and adopt forward-thinking solutions as the health and welfare of the sport’s human and equine athletes are paramount to their future in California,” Newsom said.

“These bills are an essential step to create a safer and more transparent horse racing experience for everyone involved and can serve as a model for other states to follow.”

Also Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved HR 1754, the Horseracing Integrity Act which would establish the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority under the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with oversight from the Federal Trade Commission to implement, publish and maintain rules regarding substances, methods and treatments that are permitted to be administered to thoroughbred horses.

The bill would also establish uniform sanctions for violations, establish racetrack safety standards and allow other breeds to elect to be regulated by the authority.

“The numbers of horses killed while racing in America are out of line with the much lower rate of horse deaths internationally,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, whose district includes Santa Anita Park.

“That is why I welcome this new federal standard to help ensure all horses are protected, no matter where they race. We should not accept dead horses as just a normal cost of this sport.”

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