While the United States Trotting Association (USTA) strongly supports breed-specific, uniform medication rules for horse racing, the USTA, which has had no input into the preparation of the bill, opposes the Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R.2651) for a number of reasons.
Two of the primary objections to the proposed legislation are the elimination of race-day medications, specifically furosemide (Lasix), and the lack of separate, uniform regulations governing the use of therapeutic medications for the different breeds.
In March 2012, the USTA announced its official position on furosemide stating, “The U.S. Trotting Association believes that the most humane way to address this problem (Exercised-Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage) is through the continued approval of the race-day administration of furosemide under controlled conditions and by a licensed veterinarian.”
“After a year of considering all the issues concerning the race-day administration of furosemide, commonly known as Salix or Lasix, the U.S. Trotting Association believes the determining factor should be the welfare of the horse,” said then USTA President Phil Langley in making the announcement at that time.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners also endorses the use of race-day Lasix “based on the overwhelming body of international scientific and clinical evidence.”
The USTA has long been an advocate for separate rules for the different breeds in the use of therapeutic medications.
“As the Association of Racing Commissioners International has recently agreed and the USTA has advocated all along, the differences in the racing breeds and their business models, particularly the frequency that the horses race, requires there to be separate rules for each breed in the use of therapeutic medications,” said USTA President Russell Williams. “A 'one-size-fits-all' approach, which is what H.R.2651 appears to advocate, isn't right, isn't fair, doesn't promote equine health, and won't work.”
Further, the USTA has concerns about the makeup of the proposed federal board of the Horseracing Anti-Doping and Medication Control Authority (HAMCA) created by the legislation.
“The proposed board members will have no experience with or understanding of the horse racing industry or the welfare of the horses,” said Williams. “It seeks to replace the current state regulatory system where uniformity largely exists and is made up of regulators with extensive experience and knowledge of horse racing.
“Also, it is a significant concern to the USTA that this legislation would designate the Federal Trade Commission as the ultimate regulatory authority, bypassing agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration that have experience with animal welfare issues.”
In addition, the proposed legislation would create a regulatory commission that could mandate significant additional expenses to the horse racing industry.
“There is no stipulation for federal funding in the legislation as there is for the United States Anti-Doping Agency in its testing of human athletes, which would give HAMCA a blank check to impose new costs to racetracks and horsemen with minimal oversight or accountability,” added Williams.
The USTA joins the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (the two major, national organizations representing Thoroughbred owners, breeders and trainers); Harness Horsemen International (the international organization that represents Standardbred owners, breeders and trainers in the U.S. and Canada); Association of Racing Commissioners International (the national organization representing independent state racing commissions); the American Association of Equine Practitioners and North American Association of Racetrack Veterinarians (the two principal organizations representing the equine veterinary community); and the American Quarter Horse Association as well as numerous other racing and breeding organizations in opposing the proposed Horse Racing Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2651).
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