NTRA: IS ANYONE HOME?

by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am
Dr. Patricia Hogan, an accomplished veterinary surgeon who operates Hogan Equine in New Jersey and oversees the Ruffian Equine Medical Center adjacent to Belmont Park, understands that public perception is reality when it comes to equine welfare issues. When the American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners came out in support of horse slaughter, Hogan said the organizations were out of touch with the general public's views on animal welfare. Her criticism of those two groups has fallen on deaf ears.

 

Recently, Dr. Hogan turned her attention to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, an organization that invested a great deal of time and money on the much-ballyhooed Safety and Integrity Alliance created in the wake of the tragic death of Eight Belles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. The Alliance has a Code of Standards that, among other things, encourages tracks to provide for the aftercare of retired racehorses, but takes no position on horse slaughter. In fact, the last time anti-slaughter legislation went before Congress, commissioner and CEO Alex Waldrop wrote that the NTRA neither opposed nor supported the bill.

 

In a letter sent by Federal Express to Waldrop on Jan. 16, Hogan urged him to reconsider the NTRA's neutrality on anti-slaughter legislation and not rely on the AVMA and AAEP leadership position as the NTRA's compass on the issue. “I sincerely hope you will consider my request,” Hogan wrote. “I only represent what so many people want to see happen in this sport–both the industry participant and the casual racing fan–we all want to see Thoroughbred racing survive and we cannot lose if we truly look to preserve the principles of integrity, decency, and those of equine welfare.”

 

More than three weeks have passed, and Hogan has yet to hear anything from Waldrop or his staff, even after she followed up with a phone message to the NTRA chief.|

The lack of response begs the question: Is anyone home at the NTRA?

Following is the complete text of Hogan's letter, reprinted here with her permission. — Ray Paulick

 

January 16, 2010

 

Mr. Alex Waldrop

NTRA

2525 Harrodsburg Road

Suite 400

Lexington, KY 40504

 

Dear Mr. Waldrop:

 

We have never met but in fact we have a great deal in common – we are both heavily invested in the Thoroughbred racing industry and we both share an obvious concern and dedication to see the sport survive.  I ask that you please give me a few moments of your time and hear me out about an increasingly important issue burdening our sport.

 

I am a veterinary surgeon and I am fortunate enough to have the privilege of caring for some of the most valuable horses our sport has to offer.  I also care for some of the least valuable – those horses that are no longer financial contributors to racing and therefore must either find an alternate career, or in too many cases, be shipped off to slaughter.

 

I work very closely with many retirement organizations but there is one in particular that you should know more about.  It is the Turning For Home Program at Philadelphia Park and we have made a very tangible difference there- a difference for the racetrack, for the horsemen, and most of all, for the horses.  Everyone wins in this program.  The track shows the public that it cares about its “product” enough to institute and support a program, the horsemen now have options in order to comply with the anti-slaughter policy put forth by the racetrack, and the horses gain a second chance to serve a useful purpose.  It is a great example of how members of our industry are approaching this problem effectively at the grass-roots level.  I am currently working on setting up a similar type of program in New York following the recent announcement of NYRA's strong anti-slaughter policy. We are planning to connect NYRA, my affiliate hospital, Ruffian Equine Medical Center, and New Vocations, a well-established Thoroughbred retraining/placement organization together to provide the same type of network to address this issue.  My point is that it can be done and it is being done throughout our industry. Wouldn't it be to the NTRA's advantage to be ahead of the story rather than trying to catch the train that has already left the station?

 

Surely the NTRA has reached a point where the obvious “writing on the wall” is at least visible, if not legible.  Animal welfare issues are absolutely at the forefront of the public's concerns.  Thoroughbred racing has never been under more intense scrutiny by the public and we just cannot afford to appear complacent or indifferent.  Does it not say something to the NTRA that many of its member tracks have now independently instituted some very strong anti-slaughter policies?  If these tracks can recognize both the financial and public relations value of that policy as being relatable to their own livelihood and bottom line, why cannot the NTRA see that as well and provide the leadership in that arena?

 

I urge you to not let the pro-slaughter position taken by the leadership factions of the AVMA and AAEP continue to be your compass on this issue.  Please don't allow their special interests to become yours.  I am a long-standing member of both organizations and although they serve their purposes within my profession, they do not dictate my politics or my ethics.   It is important to note that it is only a very small percentage of AAEP veterinarians who are actually involved with Thoroughbred racing – the vast majority of the membership is involved with the pleasure horse industry and therefore have little to lose in regards to issues with public perception and slaughter.  Yet the racing industry has, by far, the most to lose here.

 

I am asking you to please reconsider your neutrality on this vital issue and at least take a stand for the Thoroughbred racehorse.  I am not asking you to come out politically against the anti-slaughter bills – just please consider taking care of our own interests.  Those of us working in the trenches, so to speak, need your leadership on this issue. We need you to recognize that the slaughter of Thoroughbred racehorses is simply not acceptable.  If the public sees that we are actively working to resolve this important welfare issue in our sport, then we as an industry will be all the better for it.

 

I sincerely hope you will consider my request – I only represent what so many people want to see happen in this sport – both the industry participant and the casual racing fan – we all want to see Thoroughbred racing survive and we cannot lose if we truly look to preserve the principles of integrity, decency, and those of equine welfare.

 

If I can personally be of service in any way to get this moving in the right direction, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I will use whatever resources I can provide to continue to support a resolution to this very important issue.

 

Respectfully,

 

Patricia M. Hogan, VMD

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons

  • Rachel

    Thank-you Dr. Hogan.

  • Bob

    Nice letter. You’ll probably get another blog post from Waldrop which waffles back and forth without any real definitive signs of leadership.

  • Mary Overman

    I’m disappointed that Dr. Hogan hasn’t received any reply at all to her letter. And I still can’t figure out what political failout the NTRA is concerned about if it were to take a strong anti-slaughter position. Does anyone else know?

  • Amy

    Don’t give up, Dr. Hogan – please keep writing and calling – we need respected people in the industry, alike yourself, to lobby for what will help to save our sport.

  • Paula

    Alex Waldrop & his Safety Farce (aka political has-been Tommy Thompson) will likely tap dance around it because, in all reality, they still share this view of horses as “property” and don’t want “big bad government” telling owners what to do with their property.

    But, does it really matter what the NTRA thinks or supports? They are, for all intents & purposes, a poltical lobbying organization for horse owners…. they are far less than what they seem to think they are, and in the end, their opinions matter naught. The NTRA isn’t a regulatory body, so why does it even matter what they think?

    Noble effort on the part of Dr. Hogan, but she needs to not hold her breath waiting for a response from Alex Waldrop.

  • Patricia Bewley

    The slilence is deafning from the NTRA on all fronts. No one gets any answers on slaughter or the hypocrisy of the certification safety program the NTRA implemeted. They certify racetracks for safety and have a racehorse retirement clause in the policy however they give accrediation to the tracks and ignore the retirement part. For the record I would like to state that the RACE Fund was the program Philadelphia Park orginally agreed to set up and fund, instead at the last minute , our business plan was turned into ” Turning for Home” , while it is great to see horses being saved at Philadelphia Park, the program they use came from the RACE Fund. As for New Vocations I find it hard to believe that only taking the horses in the best of shape and discarding the rest is a true rescue program. Also selling mares for breeding seems to defeat the purpose especially when they go to the Quarter Horse people. It would be great to see more people of Dr. Hogans class , standing up for the horses and expecting responsibilty for the long term care of the athletes that make it all possible. While the no slaughter policies are encouraging , they don’t seem to be implemented. We never hear of anyone losing their stalls because they send horses to slaughter, yet truck loads of Thorougbreds are going to slaughter everyday. The position of the RACE Fund is that the funding for the care of retired racehorses come from the owners,the HBPA, the mangement of the tracks, the purses. The money is in the purses and the horses deserve a percentage of those purses for racehorse retirement. So many good rescues go to auctions every week to try to save thouroughbreds , why should the responsibilty of the lives of these horses be left to these people. The tracks need to stand up and make mandatory funding from the purses available for the lives of these horses.

  • Anne

    When I first heard of Alex Waldrop’s stand on horse slaughter, I could not believe what I was hearing. How could he be so cold hearted with a lack of conscience? After seeing this man in front of the cameras during the Eclipse Awards, it all came to light. He is as pompous and arrogant in person as he is in his position on horse slaughter.As he ages, would he rather die a death of dignity or the way these poor, once beloved animals fatal death is executed?
    Kudos to Dr. Hogan who took the time to make this man stand up to his postion on horse slaughter. After having a horse under Dr. Hogan’s care, I truly know how dedicated she truly is to the welfare of these magnificant animals. If Alex Waltrop does not respond, it shows what a coward he truly is.

  • bob Hope

    Unfortunately, this is another result of the industry appointing “non-horsemen” at the helm of important racing institutions. It is not the fault of Waldrop, a lawyer by trade. It is the silent melanoma created by industry leaders (some horsemen) that think lawyers and accountants should lead the industry. This is a complete fallacy and has failed time after time for decades. If you do not come through the ranks of the thoroughbred industry in some form or other, the chances of “getting it” will not occur and the fallout to the sport/industry can and has been devastating. Let’s take it one more step. Owning a horse is not a prerequisite for leadership in our business either and the penchant to lump fragmented exposure into a resume for leadership is deadly! It won’t work in other business and it doesn’t work in ours….but we keep applying this insulation and expecting good results. It is stupidity personified and should be as apparent as incompetence in lion taming and aviation. it just won’t work! So why all of the questions?

  • Gail Vacca

    Thank you Dr. Hogan for your tireless efforts to speak on behalf of the horses this industry routinely tosses away as if they were yesterday’s trash.

    As for Alex Waldrop and the NTRA..what can we expect when non-horsemen are hired to do the work that should be done by knowledgeable, ethical horsemen? Mr. Waldrop doesnt seem to have the foggiest notion what the industry needs to survive, let alone (and more importantly) what the horses need. Perhaps its time to lobby for change to the NTRA itself. Perhaps its time for the industry to seek a changing of the guard at NTRA?

  • Richard Coreno

    This cruelty – and the delight so many take in being part of this blood “sport” that occurs after the finish line – WILL destroy the industry. But the extreme arrogance and stupidity of the so-called leaders in the “Sport of Kings” is a sign of being not only out-of-touch with the realities of the 21st Century, but an utter disdain for the (equine) athletes that deliver the show every day…and put money in their bank accounts and food on their tables.

  • ktq

    Typical.

  • Noelle

    Ray – I’d be interested to read a story on the politics behind the NTRA’s “neutral” stand.

    They’re certainly not showing leadership. With public opinion largely opposed to horse slaughter and given racing’s shrinking fan base, exactly why is NTRA taking a position that is guaranteed to turn off the younger fans racing needs to attract?

    I’ve read posts on this and other blogs from horse owners (at least they say they’re horse owners) who stand on their right to “dispose” of their property in any way they see fit, including slaughter. To them, it seems, slaughtering a horse, even under current conditions, is morally equivalent to junking a car. Is Waldrop personally in that camp? If not, is he afraid of losing his job?

    Who are the pro-slaughter owners? It would be good to know who their names – especially among the leading owners most likely to wield power within the NTRA. If none are, or none will admit it publicly, how does Waldrop justify the NTRA’s stance?

  • New Jersey Jake

    Is NTRA still taking a lot of money from the quarterhorse folks?

  • The NTRA’s neutral stance on this is deplorable. And the tracks that have established their own anti-slaughter policies and programs yet remain members of the NTRA should be ashamed of themselves. I see little, if any, value to membership in the NTRA at this point and encourage member tracks to withdraw unless the organziation takes an anti-slaughter position.

  • Gail Vacca

    Here is a list of the current Board Members at NTRA. Several of their members head-up or are associated with industry groups that are publicly opposed to slaughter. Makes one wonder whether their opposition to slaughter is sincere or just something they offered up as a PR move.

    Here is a link to the current list of supporters of HR 501/S 727.
    http://www.awionline.org/ht/d/sp/i/11627/pid/11627

    Chief Executive Officer, NTRA
    Alex Waldrop

    Chief Financial Officer, NTRA
    Vicki Baumgardner

    NTRA Senior Vice Presidents
    Keith Chamblin, Marketing & Industry Relations
    Peggy Hendershot, Legislative Affairs
    Terry McElfresh, NTRA Purchasing
    NTRA Board of Directors

    Racetrack Representatives
    Robert Elliston, Turfway Park (Executive Chairman, NTRA) Supposedly anti-slaughter
    Robert Evans, Churchill Downs Incorporated – Has anti-slaughter policy in place
    William Fasy, Delaware Park – Supposedly anti-slaughter
    Charles Hayward, New York Racing Association – Has anti-slaughter policy in place
    F. Jack Liebau, Sr., Hollywood Park – no known position on the issue
    Ron Charles, Magna Entertainment Company – Has anti-slaughter policy in place
    Nick Nicholson, Keeneland Association – Supposedly anti-slaughter

    Owner/Breeder/Horsemen Representatives
    Antony Beck, Breeders’ Cup Limited – supposedly anti-slaughter
    Reynolds Bell Jr., Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association
    Alan Foreman, Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
    Satish Sanan, Breeders’ Cup Limited – anti-slaughter supporter
    Robert Clay, The Jockey Club – supposedly anti-slaughter
    Marsha Naify, Thoroughbred Owners of California – supposedly anti-slaughter
    Joe Santanna, Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association

    NTRA
    Alexander Waldrop, NTRA President and CEO

  • Gail Vacca

    I suppose that we could request a record of the official NTRA Board vote (if one ever was recorded) on whether or not the NTRA should support HR 503/S 727. This would tell us exactly who on the Board at NTRA supports slaughtering our horses as an industry approved method of Thoroughbred retirement.

  • equine

    Yes, the AAEP and AVMA as a whole are out of touch. There are many, many equine veterinarians who do not support the slaughter of horses. The captive bolt is designed for cattle not horses. These horses suffer massive head injuries from the CB and even if actually stunned, regain consciousness within 30 seconds. These horses are not only alive when butchered, they are conscious! I post this here to emphasize to the NTRA the effect of your position on the general public. There are several key issues the general public and the racing public are concerned about regarding horse welfare: 1) perceived drugging of sore horses, 2) racing of sore horses leading to public breakdowns, 3) irresponsible breeding for profit without an industry wide provision to provide for retirement or even humane euthanasia for horses suffering severe or catastrophic injuries, and 4) the cruel and inhumane transport and slaughter of TB horses. Any organization affiliated with the racing or breeding of TBs that does not take an official stand against slaughter or transportation to slaughter, is furthering the public’s perception that the industry is all about greed and special interest, abuse and inhumane treatment of the horses this industry is built on. The public requires public commitment, not some we support equine retirement programs with miniscule donations rhetoric.

  • Romulus

    I want to know what happened with Thorn Song? Thats the story.

  • Opposite View

    This post will probably start a war on the Paulick Report so Ray, make sure your server is up to speed. Stick to your guns NTRA, AVMA, AAEP!! I support you 100%!! I am disgusted with all of the so called “horse fans”! You all say you support racing, do not support slaughter, force your views onto everyone in the industry. If what all of you bloggers get your way, they might as well close every race track in America and put down every horse and not just race horses. Everyone is blaming the economy for the current state of the the horse industry (not just race horse industry), but if you will notice since the slaughter houses in the US were shut down, the market has bottomed out and will never rebound and it is NOT just the economy!! I do understand why we love horses so much but folks it is time to realize these are FARM animals, not household pets! If everyone of you will adopt a horse NOT make minimal donations to retirement homes or rescues but put your money where you mouth is! You go out there, adopt a horse, take care of it daily, pay your board bill, feed bill, vet bill, farrier bill, etc. and then you might realize their are things that happen to horses that are worse than death. Most of you would rather see a horse euthanized than to be used for human comsumption but that is because it is not “our way of life”. You prefer to tell someone else what they are allowed to eat, try to make the worlds decisions because of your preferences. To be quite honest, it is none of your business if someone choses to eat horse meat! Everyone is sitting around whining about the economy, whining about the unemployment rate and yet are not concerned about the numerous people (yes PEOPLE) that are about to loose their jobs because of POLITICAL non-sense. When the slaughter issues blow over, there will be another ban wagon for you folks to jump on. In my opinion, yes I am entitled to one, horse slaughter needs to be allowed. It needs to be monitored to make sure these horses are not neglected or abused during transport and while at the slaughter houses before they are put down in a humane way still allowing their meat to be used to feed starving people of other countries. Then, everytime I drive home I will not be forced to see STARVING horses in dry lots with NOTHING to eat. Then, I will not have to turn on the radio and hear about the misfortune of someone running over a horse on their way to work and ending with a small child losing their parents because these horses are just turned loose to roam wild. If you all turn a blind eye to the situation you are creating, you all will be greatly disappointed in the end when you realize you could not see the forest for the trees!

  • Bob Caito

    I applaud Dr. Hogan for having the courage to take a stand on this vitally important issue confronting Thoroughbred racing. We need to establish a public opinion that our industry cares about the animals who win purse money for their owners and provide enjoyment for racing fans. But, saving horses from a cruel ending isn’t just a matter of public perception—it’s the right thing to do.

  • Thank you Dr. Hogan for once again standing up for the horses. For several years the NTRA had been anti-horse slaughter (at least in name alone) thanks to the leadership of the late, great John Hettinger. Sadly, only a few days after his passing did the NTRA flip to their pro-horse slaughter position. I say pro-horse slaughter despite Mr. Waldrop’s attempt to claim otherwise because this is an either or issue. His excuses were simply not true. The NTRA had issues a statement saying they supported legislation against horse slaughter, but Mr. Waldrop tried to claim it was only support for one bill. All of that aside, it is incredible that with all of the troubles facing this industry that anyone would come out and defend a deplorable practice such as horse slaughter. Thankfully we have vets like Dr. Hogan and others that founded Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (www.vetsforequinewelfare.org).

  • Mary Overman

    Well, here they are – NTRA Board of Directors. It would be good to make their vote on the NTRA slaughter position public, I think. Although the fact that they insist they are “neutral” maybe means they haven’t ever voted? A vote on slaughter – because it impacts breeding practices so directly and therefore $ – could be a can of worms none of them wants to open? Wish I knew …

    NTRA Board of Directors (per NTRA website)

    Racetrack Representatives –
    Robert Elliston, Turfway Park (Executive Chairman, NTRA)
    Robert Evans, Churchill Downs Incorporated
    William Fasy, Delaware Park
    Charles Hayward, New York Racing Association
    F. Jack Liebau, Sr., Hollywood Park
    Ron Charles, Magna Entertainment Company
    Nick Nicholson, Keeneland Association

    Owner/Breeder/Horsemen Representatives –
    Antony Beck, Breeders’ Cup Limited
    Reynolds Bell Jr., Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association
    Alan Foreman, Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association
    Satish Sanan, Breeders’ Cup Limited
    Robert Clay, The Jockey Club
    Marsha Naify, Thoroughbred Owners of California
    Joe Santanna, Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association

    NTRA –
    Alexander Waldrop, NTRA President and CEO

  • equine

    As to Dr. Hogan’s questions above, “Does it not say something to the NTRA that many of its member tracks have now independently instituted some very strong anti-slaughter policies? If these tracks can recognize both the financial and public relations value of that policy as being relatable to their own livelihood and bottom line, why cannot the NTRA see that as well and provide the leadership in that arena?”

    The Paulick Report archives have several articles referencing this. In the second article, Madeline Pickens offers her opinion on the NTRA’s lack of commitment to antislaughter legislation. Please see the link at:
    http://www.paulickreport.com/blog/tag/josephine-abercrombie/
    There are several articles of interest here beginning with:

    1) GOOD NEWS FRIDAY, sponsored by Liberation Farm – KENTUCKY EQUINE HUMANE CENTER Friday, July 10th, 2009 By Ray Paulick

    Specifically names individuals involved in the creation of the KyEHC. The KyEHC has ““an open-door policy where no equine in need of shelter is ever turned away and no fee is required to surrender an equine.”

    2) MADELEINE PICKENS: A PLAN FOR ALL HORSES Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
    By Ray Paulick

    Under the Heading: A PLACE FOR EX-RACEHORSES, TOO
    Pickens said the ranch will not just be a refuge for wild horses. She wants it to be all inclusive for different breeds, and especially ex-Thoroughbred racehorses that often end up unwanted or sold to killer-buyers who send them off for slaughter in Canada or Mexico.

    In the 3rd paragraph, Pickens states her opinion as to why the NTRA refused to support antislaughter legislation in Congress.

    3) In the third article, INDUSTRY ORGANIZATION POSITIONS ON SLAUGHTER
    Wednesday, October 8th, 2008 By Ray Paulick
    The information from Thoroughbred industry associations and businesses to see if they have taken a position on the issue of slaughter and on the specific legislation (H.B. 6598) which addresses the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act.

    4) The fourth article, ABERCROMBIE’S STRONG PITCH TO END SLAUGHTER
    Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 By Ray Paulick
    Includes a list of 45 individuals who signed her letter supporting passage of the HR 6598 Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act over the neutral position of the NTRA.

    Thanks to Ray for giving us the names of these individuals who are taking a stand against slaughter and equine cruelty.

  • Tiznowbaby

    Opposite View, I’m not morally opposed to horse slaughter — I think it would be hypocrital of me to do so given that I eat beef and other animals that I have hunted and killed.
    However, look at what you wrote: It needs to be monitored to make sure these horses are not neglected or abused during transport and while at the slaughter houses before they are put down in a humane way still allowing their meat to be used to feed starving people of other countries.
    Therein lies the crux of the problem. It has not ever been properly monitored and I don’t think ever will be. Look at recent exposes on cattle slaughterhouses. If cattle are not treated humanely, what makes you think horses will? In my experience, when there is money to be made, moralitty and ethics take a brisk walk at the door, and so you see cattle unable to walk behing pushed and tumbled through slaughterhouse doors by front-end loaders.
    Btw, given that China is by far the largest consumer of horse meat, I would not consider the meat going to feed starving peoples. Rather, it goes to feed people who simply have a taste for it and do not have a cultural taboo against it.
    I think it’s disingenuous for you to blame the posters on this board for not adopting a former racehorse to save it from the slaughterhouse. As long as breeders continue to breed enormous books, there will be an oversupply. In my view, much of the blame lies there, in overproduction.
    As for Alex Waldop and the NTRA’s “neutral” stance on slaughter. They are not neutral; they are pro slaughter, they just don’t have the cajones to come out and say so.

  • Mary Overman

    Hello, Opposite View. No war – discussion of different viewpoints is GOOD. We educate each other that way. I do own a retired racehorse – Whozoominwho – and pay every single one of his boarding bills, vet bills, farrier bills, and insurance bills, so hope it is OK to post a reply to you …

    1. You say posters/bloggers “force [our] views onto everyone in the industry” and “tell someone else what they are allowed to eat.” In fact, like you, we are posting viewpoints based on the facts we have been able to garner about horse slaughter and the racing industry.

    2. You say “if you will notice since the slaughter houses in the US were shut down, the market has bottomed out and will never rebound and it is NOT just the economy.” In fact, slaughter is still 100% and easily available to anyone in the US who wants to discard their horse in that manner. They can sell the horse directly to the meat buyer, or sell it to him through an auction. The horse will then be shipped to Canada or Mexico for slaughter. So to suggest the closing of the US slaughterhouses is the cause of the drop in the horse market is not accurate. And to suggest the economy doesn’t have a huge impact on the horse market isn’t realistic.

    3. You say transport to slaughter “needs to be monitored to make sure these horses are not neglected or abused during transport and while at the slaughter houses before they are put down in a humane way still allowing their meat to be used to feed starving people of other countries.” In fact, there are laws and regulations already in place that are intended to ensure no neglect, no abuse and humane transport, but these laws and regulations do not work because they are largely not enforced due to lack of interest and lack of money to pay personnel. There is no infrastructure in the US nor in any foreign country to “feed starving people” with horsemeat, nor are there any plans to establish such infrastructures – this is not only because the slaughterplants need to be paid for their work and cannot “donate” the horsemeat they create, but the chemical residue in US horsemeat from wormers and medications has now galvanized the EU to establish new rules (which the Canadian government is in the process of implementing and which the Mexican government is expected to act upon soon as well) that will eventually render most US horsemeat unfit for shipment to the EU.

    4. You say “Then, everytime I drive home I will not be forced to see STARVING horses in dry lots with NOTHING to eat. Then, I will not have to turn on the radio and hear about the misfortune of someone running over a horse on their way to work and ending with a small child losing their parents because these horses are just turned loose to roam wild.” If you see starving horses with no food on your way home, please report the owners to local authorities, or e-mail the information to me so I can follow up on it. It is illegal to abuse your animals in this way. I have seen too many poor people make sure their animals (pets AND “farm animals”) have plenty to eat and too many well-off people not feed their animals enough this winter to have much sympathy for owners who have starving horses. And I would appreciate a link to the news story of the people who ran over a horse and left their child an orphan. Unfortunately, many of the stories (not all) of horses abandonned to “roam wild” have turned out to be untrue.

  • Good Gov’t

    Another consultanectomy performed on the Horse Industry — you had a couple kids at Tommy Thompson’s law firm write the report that was a joke —

    Everyone knows that the safety alliance was a joke — just a bunch of fat cats taking big salaries and pontificating crap —

  • equine

    Opposite View, I acknowledge your right to your opinion, but you are misinformed. Horsemeat is a high priced delicacy item. It is not fed to poor starving people in third world countries.

    Unless the industry takes action to incorporate dedicated plans for horse welfare and retirement,, you are going to see more starving horses. In 2009, there was a 20% decline in the rate of export of horse meat from both Canada and Mexico as a result of decreased demand for horse meat.

  • It seems like the NTRA could have its political cake and eat it, too. If it really wants (needs?) to remain neutral on the issue of slaughter, it could work with Dr Hogan to design a national program that simply makes sure that horses actively involved in the sport of racing be protected by programs like the ones she outlines.

    Anti-war political groups would surely help the refugees of war-torn nations. So would neutral nations. It is the humanitarian thing to do.

    Horses at the end of their racing careers are like refugees. They are homeless, with uncertain futures. Many have soundness and behavior issues to be worked on. Making sure that they are protected from slaughter for a certain amount of time while in sponsored retraining and rehoming programs has less to do with the politics of slaughter than it does with the responsibilities of the sport to take care of its own by-product.

    Programs like Dr. Hogan’s aim to convert the by-product from a liability to an asset, particularly in the eyes of the public. And it is politically possible to protect racehorses from slaughter while they are in these sponsored programs without condoning or condemning the existence of the slaughter industry, if neutrality on national anti-slaughter legislation is what the NTRA feels it must maintain.

    That neutrality stance should really be a separate discussion from the need to protect horses leaving racetracks.

    If Patty Hogan ever offered to help me with anything, I would leap at the chance. The offer in her letter is a tremendous p.r. opportunity for the NTRA and all racing.

  • Wingtips

    The NTRA is a benign puppet, as is TOBA.

    The Bloodhorse is a polyanna publication. Their recent cover story “What’s Working in Racing- a Look at Industry Success Stories” gave me chest pains.

    In the end, our “industry” is doomed.

  • Chris

    If a person can afford to buy a horse, they can put a few dollars in the bank for euthanization if needed–slaughter is inhumane no matter how you try to say otherwise. Now is the time for the country to take measures to control breeding in every equine sport, now that breeding is at it’s lowest anyway due to the economy. Americans have made it clear that they do not want horse slaughter in this country, and for those who want to turn a profit from the suffering of these animals–they need to get a job doing something else. Stop BREEDING–if you want to race–race the one’s you have for a longer period of time. Why should the public care about horseracing anymore? The horses are raced a few times and sent to the breeding shed to make more horses to be eventually slaughtered. It’s time this industry goes the way of other brutal sports like boxing. Racing should not only die–it should be slaughtered by the public after the next highly publicized breakdown. Kill the so called Sport of Kings. (How often do you see kings walking around anymore? Exactly.)

  • No Fan of Peta

    Chris…

    have you ever visited a thoroughbred horse farm or stable where the animals are cared for with the best feed, grooming and veterinary attention (vaccines, worming, etc., and I’m not talking about that handful of vets who treat horses like a commodity and inject every joint indiscriminately)?

    The VAST majority of people who breed, raise and race horses are ethical and care about the animals. Don’t be so judgmental about all of us until you take the time to learn about what we do

    And by the way, boxing hasn’t gone away…it’s just become less popular and has been pushed aside by UFC, which is an even more brutal bloodsport than boxing but has superior structure and marketing. There has been no public outcry against boxing, just poor oversight of the sport by the network of state regulators.

  • Garrett Redmond

    #19, Opposite View. We have several retirees on our farm – so our dues are paid-up to date. Therefore, with conviction, I can stand beside you on your viewpoint.

    Suffering horses would be better served by regulated abattoirs in every state. The operations and transport to them could be regulated. Lack of personnel is not an excuse. Start a Fund with all donations used to pay the inspectors.

    The idea of notifying Humane Societies is a non-starter. Here in the Bluegrass I know of several notices given to the Societies. Most they do is: “Talk to the owner”. They do not appear to have any enforcement power.

  • Noelle

    Thanks to Tiznowbaby and Mary Overman who have replied to Opposite View very effectively.

    I also take issue with Opposite View’s argument that it’s perfectly OK to slaughter retired racehorses because they are just farm animals, no different from cows or pigs. Personally I oppose inhumane slaughter of any animal, but even allowing for the possibility of humane slaughter, the fact is that retired racehorses are not just farm animals. They are not bred to be eaten. They’re bred to go to the race track.

    If Opposite View wants to see the industry improve economically, why would he/she support a practice that disgusts and appalls the general public. Racing needs new blood, new fans, to survive. Slaughter may be a fact of life in rural America, but the vast majority of potential race fans don’t live on farms.

  • Mary Overman

    Garrett – US slaughterplants require Federal (not State) inspectors and supervision on site. Operations and transport are already regulated – by Federal law and by animal abuse statutes in the States. The result you have experienced to your notices to the local sheriff and the Societies (which DO have enforcement power, by the way) in the blugrass shows how effective those regulations and laws are. “Start a Fund with all donations to pay the inspectors” isn’t realistic. I am not saying your support of slaughter is wrong, but your suggestions for making it happen are a fantasy. Plus … slaughter IS ALREADY AVAILABLE throughout the country.

  • smithy

    Please Dr Hogan do no worry too much about the NTRA and their endorsement.So what if they do.They have no influence.They are the laughing stock of the Racing Industry,jobs for the boys always have been.Now you know why Churchill got rid of Waldrop.As they say back home”wouldn,t know if he was in bed with a horse” Was never seen on the backstretch when working at Churchill.Oh don’t forget the Track Safety Group,you can just see the race tracks leading them around the place and then laughing when they drove out the gates.I’ve been around most of the tracks,have not seen any difference.What do I think of slaughter?difficult to say but seeing the way some of these Trainers look after their horses I begin to wonder which is worse.

  • MJ Wilson

    Thanks Ray, Thanks Dr. Hogan!
    Opposite View, your words sound silly after all the exposure of the truth about horse slaughter, all the videos, testimonies from slaughterhouse workers, drivers, auctions, drugs, USDA facts, etc.
    I turned away from racing in the past years because of the over-breeding and throw-away attitudes of many involved with the racing world. I wrote to the major tracks and associations with my concerns and my statement that people like my self the fans of racing would be turning away causing the racing world great losses. Maybe they listened to us, because not but a year went by before the first track announced their no tolerance rule. Now the NTRA must take the proper stance and nothing less for the horses and the racing world. They can’t be allowed to forget the animal gives them their livelihoods. After the first track went no tolerance I started again to watch some racing and with in a year two wonderful mares came into view, they are very needed to help racing survive, they are two treasures who must not be taken away from the tracks too soon, they have much to give to the fans of racing, as far as I’m concerned they’ve given back to me my love of the “King of Sports.” Let’s all remember Ferdinand and Exceller and what they gave to us, let us never forget their final sacrifice that didn’t have to be.

  • MJ Wilson

    Smithy, thanks for that insight.

  • another point to consider, Canada has a list of drugs that, if ingested by a horse at any time in its life, makes that horse not fit for slaughter. Bute is on that list. The majority of racehorses are pre-raced with bute. You only need to look at the Daily Racing Form to see the evidence in black and white. Oddly enough I was doing this this morning for a quick study I am doing on the issue.

    Our thoroughbreds are not fit for slaughter.

    So why does the AAEP, which absolutely knows this, support slaughter ? seems a tad dishonest.

    when i was at keeneland in ’07 for the fall meet i left about a dozen phone messages with the NTRA’s legislative person. not one phone call was returned. so a lack of response is not surprising i guess, but Dr. Hogan is a little more important than i am!

  • Hey ya’ll, Tommy Thompson is not the head of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance. Thompson was hired to do a review of the Alliance’s accreditation procedures. Mike Ziegler is in charge of the Alliance. Most of the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance personnel were attendees of the Symposium on Racing & Gaming in December. Many of their reports are available at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program site. We are still in process of getting the transcripts formatted for web, but more are added daily. http://ua-rtip.org/symposium/2009/transcripts_2009.html

    The Alliance has a long way to go, but before simply writing it off as ineffective, take a look at what they have actually accomplished over the last year. It may surprise you. Or not. But at least see what they’ve tried to do. And also, I would be much more confident in the Alliance as well if the NTRA would take a firm anti-slaughter stand.

  • The Thoroughbred industry could help itself a great deal by creating leadership that can distinguish between a racehorse and a meat animal.

    I also sent the NTRA a detailed critique of the vague retirement language in the Safety and Integrity Alliance code, which received no reply or acknowledgement. It pointed out that simply referring horses to non-profits or creating holding stalls would accomplish absolutely nothing without requiring that funding be put aside for horses to pay for their stay in rehabilitation. I have rehabilitated and adopted hundreds of ex- racehorses and I know from 25 years of experience that it takes the better part of a year to heal them up and find a suitable home. Handing them off to the first warm body is a recipe for disaster.

    Both the owner and the racetrack share responsibility for insuring that horses do not enter the slaughter pipeline, and a fund created from contributions by both parties should be immediately available for horses that owners wish to relinquish to a non- profit . This should be required for every horse at the track and considered simply as a part of doing the business of racing. The present situation is that non- profits must do all the work of rehab and adoption while frantically fundraising to pay for it. Does anyone else see a problem here?

    The slaughter problem can be solved absolutely if there is the political will to do so. After the inevitable grumbling and resentment everyone will simply adjust to the rules of the game that protect the horses. Then the slaughter debate can go back to where it belongs, not in racing, but in Congress.

  • U. Hemmings

    Bravo to two posters: “No Fan of Peta” and “Tiznowbaby”

    To imply that boxing has lost popularity due to its violence is both naive and ignorant. Boxing has been mismanaged into the ground (does that ring a bell?). And it’s true that boxing’s popularity has been supplanted by the ferociously violent UFC. If anything, the American public is hungrier than ever for gore.

    And perhaps I missed it, but could somebody please tell me exactly what the breeding industry has done to ward off thoroughbred horse slaughter?

    The solution is simple: If doing the right thing were to somehow become easy and affordable, people would do the right thing.

    Unfortunately it isn’t, and horse wind up in kill pens.

    Alas, like everything else in the year 2010, it comes down to money. What does it say that many of us will only do the right thing if we can afford to do it?

    The answer to that one is rather complex, I’m afraid. But when people have creditors harassing them 24 hours a day, and car and mortgage payments past due, and are afraid of losing their jobs on top of it all, that’s when horses wind up in the slaughter house. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s what happens.

  • Thehorses

    The captive bolt gun is not always effective with cattle either. Read Washington Post article “They Die Piece By Piece”. Those who are supposed to be making sure there is no cruelty at slaughterhouses are allegedly being kept away from where the animals are killed. I used to raise cattle but stopped after reading about cruelty and I also became a vegetarian. The government promised enforcement of the humane slaughter act but seems to have let people and animals down. I read on the USDA web site that it is legal to use a real gun instead of a captive bolt gun. A real gun with a silencer could provide a humane end when used properly. Cattle that are skinned alive become “dark cutters” and the meat is unfit for human consumption. I own Thoroughbreds and one is a stakes winning stallion. I bought him after his racing days were over. He is a wonderful lovable guy. My first 3 horses came from the local auction many years ago and one I purchased to save him from slaughter. I never even rode him even though he was sound and kept him fopr the rest of his life. I consider horses “big pets”. Sending horses to other countries to be killed and eaten after they have been raised to trust and serve people is the same as sending service dogs to foreign countries to be cruelly slaughtered for meat or fur after they “retire” especially horses who have provided people with a living and in some cases wealth. People should be grateful to those that have served them,helped them,worked for them. Everybody who makes money from horses should help provide for them. Some big farms with high stud fee stallions are responsible for producing lots of horses every year. How many do they rescue? How many of those they bred do they provide homes for after they are done racing that they are not breeding. They have stallions bringing in many millions of dollars per year. They can afford to help and they could be more selective and less greedy. Too many veterinarians these days do not seem to care about animals. The AVMA and AAEP should be ashamed of their position. Only people who care about animals should be allowed to attend vet schools. Canada has a new law going into effect this year which will require 6 months of vet records to accompany horses going to slaughter to be sure there are no drugs in them that are not allowed in meat.

  • Tiznowbaby

    Romulus, Bloodhorse reports that Thorn Song is still alive. He was injured racing July 25 then foundered at a vet clinic. Although insurance has paid a mortality claim, Zayat told Bloodhorse that Thorn Song is still alive — and that legally that’s all he’s allowed to say.

  • D. Masters

    Well Ray, simply amazing piece of journalism. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will qualify for an Eclipse next year (although it should) because of the truth factor. Keep up the good work Dr. Hogan.

    BTW, anyone see the “NEW” equine vet organization???? EWHA or something like that?

    Let’s see, we got the AVMA, the AAEP, the counter VEW and NOW some EWHA????

    And still, the DDs go rolling merrily along!

    Slaughter is not NECESSARY…more importantly it is a cruel disservice to the horse, no matter how slow it was.

  • Horse slaughter is not an issue of morality or ethics. It is a simple issue of a non-food animal being slaughtered. In America, we humanely euthanize non-food animals. I would suspect, especially with race horses, that nobody is breeding or raising their horses for slaughter. As such, they are given medications that make the horses non-food animals. Read the labels – Not Intended for Food Animals. Very simple. Ask a race horse owner if they consider their horses livestock or food. You’ll get a resounding NO. If people want to slaughter horses then they need to be raised like cows – standing around in a pasture waiting to be slaughtered. If they intend to use them for racing, performing, work, service, therapy, etc., they are not food animals.

    D. Masters, the new vet organization is Equine Health and Welfare Alliance (EHWA) and appears to be another “welfare” organization that is a front for slaughter. Several of us have written them without a response. I find it curious that they chose a name one letter off from our organization Equine Welfare Alliance (EWA)…

  • D. Masters

    What troubles me is that all vets take the same oath (granted, it took a ton of time to get them to take one [agree on] as an organization in the first place…20th century, I believe), but seriously we need multiple vet groups and other concerned agencies (based on animal use) to agree to promote humane treatment???? WHOLEE KA-RAPP!!!

    Hey vets ….when you gonna stop kickin’ that can down the dead end road?????

    As to the question: ” NTRA…is anyone home?” Only on Derby (per diem) and pay day.

  • Don Reed

    “Is Anyone Home?’

    Ray, with all due respect, if you’re waiting for a response from Camp Deadwood, please get in line.

    I’m still waiting for an explanation from NTRA as to how their alphabet is different than ours (that “ABC…” order of letters sort of thing…). I believe the request is about 3 years old…(!)

  • D. Masters

    Mr. Reed:

    Hahh!!

    Pretty funny…sadly the humor will be lost on the industry leaders (but not me) and also the intellect to save same. Just where in the hell does any “leader org/gov’t” get off not replying any longer?

    Let’s fire them all! Ooopps! That’s right, the fans, owners, trainers don’t have a say; in that vein, neither does the NTRA. So just exactly does have a say???

  • MED

    It seems like to even be a casual observer of racing, you can’t like horses or it’s just too much to stomach. I’m absolutely in love with these horses, never met a TB I didn’t like. But with all that goes on, I’m feeling completely worn down. Waldrop, slaughter, Thorn Song, the evil triumvirate of Paragallo, Gill and Zayat, Gill seemingly the tip of the cruelty iceberg, drug violations, joint tapping, ad nauseum.

    I’m a hard core fan and I’m exhausted. I really need to walk away for awhile but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to do that.

    I imagine a casual observer would find it easy to walk away pretty quickly.

    I really wish I had it in me to be a Nascar fan.

  • anne russek

    Just want to add my thanks, again, to Dr. Hogan. Wouldn’t it be great if she were the next president of the AAEP? The NTRA is obviously under the control of some behind the scenes big wigs, just wish they had the nerve to let us know who they are…..amazing that the racing industry lets the AQHA be the “morality police” for the entire equestrian community. Thoroughbreds in the slaughter pipeline suffer the most of all the horses. These equine athletes are often taken straight from the track to a dealers lot or an auction. They are so out of their element. They are kicked and bitten by the other horses, they are too traumatized to seek out water and hay if there even is any, and no one but the kill buyers wants them at the auctions because by the time they get there, they look awful. Add insult to injury, is the fact that the people who try and retrieve these horses from the auctions and direct to slaughter lots, have to deal with auction owners who go out of their way to protect the trainers and owners who violate no slaughter policies . These Tb’s never have a chance.

  • Patty in Dallas

    MED
    I so agree with you. I wish I could walk away from racing too, but I know I can’t. How can I when even the lowest of claiming horses or one who has raced and never won or even hit the board is the most beautiful creature to me? They all give everything they have when they race. And they still have to give their life in the end. The NTRA or anyone invoved in the racing industry who supports horse slaughter should be ashamed of themselves.

  • new owner

    would anyone buy a racehorse , knowing that , if this horse was not fast enough to compete, that he would have to take care of this horse for the rest of his life ? mayabe 20 or 25 years, with no market to sell.
    In Europe and alot of other parts of the world, they slaughter for Food. according to the news, people are
    starving. so this may help that cause also.

  • New owner get a clue. If you actually have a racehorse, which I pray you do not, educate yourself about options for the horse after racing. There are non profits in all parts of the country that will give your horse a decent shot at a future. There are also veterinarians willing to put your horse out of its suffering with a simple injection if that is necessary. And by the way, horse meat does not go to feed the starving, it is a highly toxic gourmet item for affluent diners abroad.

  • Equine Vet

    Thank you, Patty, for reaching out to the NTRA. Once again, your comments are well-put. You stated:

    “we all want to see Thoroughbred racing survive and we cannot lose if we truly look to preserve the principles of integrity, decency, and those of equine welfare.”

    I could not agree with you more and I will also do whatever I can toward this goal.

  • Christine Picavet

    Aside of upcoming slaughter regulations from Europe, Canada and soon to be Mexico, somewhere between no slaughter and pro-slaughter, between unwanted horses retiring sound and badly injured, between sent to “a good home” and sent to kill auctions, feedlots, Mexican rodeos and slaughter, between angels and scumbags, generosity and avarice, there is room to develop a solid safety net for Thoroughbreds.

    The industry needs to improve how racing is viewed by society based on the fate of its horses. Protecting the unwanted race horses would generate excellent PR. It would be a wise and timely investment that would return all kinds of dividends. It would make it easier to attract and keep new, younger, “urban” owners, more sponsors. It would generate free publicity, good will and it would be excellent for the soul.

    Owners, those who like horses and racing and those who profit from breeding and racing could help build a nationwide racing equine safety network supported by existing retirement, rescue, networking organizations such as CANTER and LOPE, and volunteers and professionals who could donate goods, time and expertise. The humane handling of all unwanted horses leaving tracks and farms could take place on track or at triage stations where they could be bought, adopted, retired, sent to surgery and/or rehab, sent to be retrained or euthanized when needed.

    A uniform equine safety net in place in all racing states along with positive identification and tracking of all race horses after they leave tracks would protect them against cruel and illegal activities such as match races and tripping and being sent to slaughter.

  • Thehorses

    Hey new owner I bought 3 horses many years ago. Two were starving with rain rot and the other would have gone to slaughter. I kept all 3 of them for the rest of their lives and never bred them. The last one I had euthanized at 33 last year. Never made a cent off any of them. If you do not care about animals why have any? I bought my stallion with the idea of making some money. Things have not gone well and I have not gotten any income just expenses and heartbreak. I intend to keep him for the rest of his days even if I never get one stud fee or live foal. You are the kind of owner horses can do without. Why don’t you stick to owning inanimate objects? There are much better options for Thoroughbreds that do not do well on the track. Two of them won Olympic medals and many others have been outstanding show jumpers,polo ponies,dressage horseungrys,etc. Read the book “Soylent Green” for ideas on feeding starving people.

  • gato

    WELL SAID PATTY! Have you heard anything back from NTRA yet?

    Dear Opposite View,
    One question…How many horses do you own?

    This is not an animal rights issue…but a horse rights issue….and our industrys responsibility to its atheletes.
    As an owner breeder…..we raise and race horses for sport. If you cant afford to treat each horse with respect and dignity, You shouldnt be in the game.
    If you can afford to bred them and raise them,
    or buy them and race them,
    to train them and shoe them and van them and feed them…..
    You can afford to take care of them, even if, in the end, that means giving them a “good end” with the help of your vet.

  • Saratoga Race Fan

    Opposite view,

    Saying that horses are being abandoned because there is no more US horse slaughter is simply not true. USDA export statistics prove the number of US horses slaughtered was higher in 2008 (about 134,000) than in 2007, the year the last US slaughter house was shut down by court order.

    Horses were going to Mexico long before 2007. The only way to stop the gruesome horse slaughter in Mexico – and similar under investigation now in Miami -Dade FL at unlicensed slaughter houses – is passing the Federal ban that also bans transport.

    Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. It just makes fans go away.

    I can’t figure out why the racing industry complains about losing fans and handle – the public knows that tens of thousands of racing TBS end up at slaughter each year. It’s not a lack of VLT money that drives away fans.

    NTRA should fix the problem – fast – with the lesson of MA greyhound racing fresh on the blackboard. What an opportunity to do right by the horse, and do right by folks who love working in the game!

    You hear problems with breeding down, but maybe we need to ask, where are the homes for these horses when they are 4 or 5, or 15 years old after breeding?

  • Cris

    Until people understand that unwanted animals deserve a death by injection for their cat or dog, I do not think they will fully care about what happens to a horse they do not own. I have kept my horses until they died and buried them on my farm. When you breed or purchase an animal you owe them nothing less. I find some of the folks that scream the most at the racehorse owner have animals of their own that suffer from neglect. People have to upgrade their attention to all animals. If there is no room for neglect to any animal the attitude towards horses will be more united. New racehorse owners should have to pay a fee that covers the death expenses for their horse at time of purchase. Then there will be nothing to argue about. The horse is insured a safe end and the sport moves its profile up by attending to the details prior to the event. All state regulated boarding facilities should be able to show certificates of all horses boarded there. a paid reciept for
    the expenses of putting the animal down, without the ticket, the animal can not be boarded.
    This will end most of all the abuse. The record keeping is simple and could be stamped on the Jockey Club papers so it follows the horse. For stock horses it is kept like dog and cat tags with the county of residence in their computer system and the paid ticket stays with the owner and a copy to the owner of the facility.
    This is simple to do, it just must be started.

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