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Protecting Horses from the Starting Gate to the Finish Line

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Originally published at aspca.org.

Tomorrow is a big day in the world of horse racing: The Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the Triple Crown, will run and California Chrome has a chance to be the first horse in decades to win all three races. However, despite the fervor over a horse with potential to be only the twelfth Triple Crown victor in history, a dark cloud overshadows the event. The widespread and dangerous practice of horse doping continues to sully the sport of horse racing.

The New York Times recently published the latest article in its series about the pervasive doping of horses at U.S. racetracks. Drugs are regularly used to give horses a performance-enhancing edge in racing—enabling them to run through pain and creating the risk of serious harm to both horse and jockey.

Illegal drugs such as cobra venom, Viagra, cancer medications, and dermorphin (a substance extracted from tree frogs that acts as a pain killer 40 times more powerful than morphine) are used to push racehorses past their physical limits, but drugs that are currently legal are problematic, too. Drugs that are banned in every racing jurisdiction other than North America are legal at American racetracks—it is hardly surprising that twice as many racehorses die in the U.S. as in other countries with horse racing (numbers calculated by the Jockey Club). A 2012 New York Times exposé revealed that an average of 24 thoroughbred racehorses die at U.S. tracks every week. That number doesn’t even include Quarter Horse racing or Standardbred racing fatalities.

It’s time to clean up the U.S. horse racing industry by passing the federal Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act (HISA), H.R. 2012/S. 973. Introduced by Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in the House and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) in the Senate, this bill will ban performance-enhancing drugs in U.S. horse racing and designate the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as the governing body to create and oversee the implementation of uniform medication rules to protect horse welfare. The Jockey Club recently acknowledged the importance of this bill and agreed that the USADA “has the experience, the knowledge and the credibility to bring much-needed integrity to our sport.”

You can help move this life-saving legislation over the finish line. Please contact your members of Congress today and urge them to cosponsor the Horseracing Integrity & Safety Act, H.R. 2012/S. 973.

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