Betting on the future of racehorses

Horse racing

Millions of Americans, and indeed millions around the world, will tune in to the Preakness this Saturday, watching the performance of incredible four-legged athletic champions in their pursuit of the Triple Crown. Regardless of what your ideology is on racing, the horses are beautiful, and we all want to ensure they are humanely treated and provided with a forever loving home in their retirement.Several years ago, American Humane Association provided assistance to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) as they developed a rigorous and thorough accreditation process for the retirement of Thoroughbreds. “The American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Humane Association, among many others, have helped the TAA create a rigorous and thorough accreditation process that prioritizes one thing above all else – the welfare of retired Thoroughbreds,” said TAA Vice President Madeline Auerbach.

The efforts to create this program enlisted the best science in animal welfare to ensure a humane retirement. “The American Association of Equine Practitioners strongly supports the efforts of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance,” said AAEP President Dr. Jeff Blea. “The AAEP has worked in partnership with the TAA on the development of its Code of Standards, best practices, its application and its site inspector documents and we support its efforts to improve the care of Thoroughbreds at rescue and retirement facilities throughout North America.”

In announcing this partnership with the TAA, I wrote, “after a lifetime of work, our magnificent Thoroughbreds deserve a great retirement. The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has been making significant strides in raising the level of care for these magnificent animals, accrediting nearly two dozen equine aftercare organizations in the just the first two years. We encourage all those doing the important work of caring for retired thoroughbreds to apply and join the growing movement of organizations committed to the highest possible standards.”

And retirement isn’t the only area being addressed. Today, there are advancements and developments in the racing industry that animal lovers applaud. The Jockey Club has been a leader in promoting medication reform for these powerful athletes, stating, “As an organization, The Jockey Club firmly believes that horses should compete only when they are free from the influence of medication.” In fact, The New York State Racing and Wagering Board enacted a series of new rules in 2012 that significantly restrict the use of legal drugs for horses and require trainers to disclose what treatments their horses have received. As reported by Tom Precious in The Horse on November 24, 2014, “New York regulators enacted the most sweeping set of equine drug rules in more than 30 years in the state, providing a more certain threshold for allowable amounts of medication from two dozen different drugs in Thoroughbreds prior to running in a race.”

Animal advocate, actress, author and businesswoman Victoria Principal recently shared with me the details of her campaign to encourage more states to follow in New York’s hoof prints. She encourages animal lovers to not bet on horse races until those states change their practices and adopt the advanced set of regulations that New York has enacted.

“I encourage everyone who loves horse racing to continue going to the races or watching the races…but not to bet on the races,” said Ms. Principal. “In this manner you will be honoring the wonderful thoroughbred athletes and their equally gifted jockeys, but not aiding the racing industry in its exploitation of race horses. This can cause financial hardship for the racing industry which has the potential to inspire them to emulate and facilitate updated and sweeping drug enforcement like the state of New York. Think of all the times you lost at the race track.  Don’t bet, support our thoroughbred athletes and be a humane winner!”

If any animal is an American icon, it is the horse. We love horses so let’s support their futures by supporting commonsense and much-needed reforms to ensure good lives and a great finish for these magnificent creatures.

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Kindness 100: Celebrating a century of “Be Kind to Animals Week®” all year-round

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For generations of Americans, the first week of May has always been associated with kindness. Indeed, from May 3-9 millions of people around the country young and old will join American Humane Association to celebrate our “Be Kind to Animals Week®,” the oldest commemorative week in U.S. history.

What makes this year so special is that we will be celebrating 100 years as the most successful humane education effort ever undertaken. Continue reading

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Battle Buddies deserve better: Update from Capitol Hill

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Over the past few days, we have enjoyed productive meetings with members of Congress and staff talking about the fixes for contract working dogs and military working dogs.

These issues are complicated as anything is in the government and defense bureaucracy, but we are working collaboratively with Congress and are so appreciative of the members’ insights and willingness to roll up their sleeves and help. Continue reading

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Battle Buddies: A Mother’s Heartfelt Plea

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Friends,

This week, I head to Capitol Hill to advocate for America’s military and contract working dogs – our canine war heroes. I’ll be joined by Specialist Brent Grommet, Corporal Jeff DeYoung, and their battle buddies, with our celebrity champion, Naomi Judd. As we prepare to advocate for changes affecting military and contract working dogs, I am reminded of the healing power of the bond for battle buddies on both ends of the leash. Continue reading

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When a Dog is the Best Medicine

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Sometimes, a dog can be the best medicine – even in the worst situations.

On March 25, Butler, American Humane Association’s spokesdog and The Weather Channel Therapy Dog who is trained to help people following meterological crises, joined me on a visit to a remarkable teenager who was severely injured in a weather-related accident. Austin, a 16-year-old teenager from Portland, TN, decided to take advantage of the recent snowfall and go sledding down a steep hill near his sister’s home. A fun day ended in tragedy when Austin crashed head-first into a tree and was paralyzed. He was air-lifted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and three weeks later arrived in Atlanta, GA at the Shepherd Spinal Center to start his journey of recovery. Continue reading

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A little paint but a lot of pain: National Fire Dog Monument vandalized!

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This morning I woke to the shocking news that our beloved National Fire Dog Monument, created by sculptor Austin Weishel with the support of American Humane Association and State Farm to celebrate the heroism of America’s arson detection dogs, has been vandalized. The beautiful life-size bronze sculpture is now covered in blue paint with hate speech scrawled across its concrete base.

As a national humane organization, words cannot express how heartbroken we are about the hatred shown to the heroes the monument represents: arson dogs and their brave handlers on the other of the leash who keep us and our communities safe. Here are a couple of quotes from two key people involved in creating the monument, and who work with arson hero dogs every day: Continue reading

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