Protecting Horses



More than a century since humans developed modern methods of transportation to replace equines, we still use and abuse them in numerous ways. Among the cruelest – and certainly least essential to human life – is the use of horses in racing.

Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar global industry – which in the US is comprised of both a regulated and heavily taxpayer-subsidized sector, and an unregulated underground “bush track” network. The industry is rife with drug abuse, with horses being administered everything from thyroid medication to cocaine and methamphetamine to enhance their performance. The racing industry reports hundreds of horse deaths on the track each year, while independent analyses estimate annual on-track horse fatalities to be in the thousands. Even among horses who survive long enough to “retire” from racing, many are shipped outside US borders to be slaughtered for meat.

People are also victims of the horse racing industry – from jockeys who suffer injuries including paralysis in track collisions, to seasonal workers cheated of wages by wealthy trainers, to bettors cheated of winnings when horses are illegally drugged.

Since 2016, the Fund has supported PETA’s Equine Matters work, and particularly its Campaign to End Racehorse Cruelty – with success in combatting each of these forms of cruelty.

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2024 :

🐴 Unregulated "bush tracks": PETA has continued work to expose how nearly 200 known bush tracks across the US not only kill horses and jockeys, but are also intertwined with extensive criminal activity.

In Georgia, after a local district attorney examined PETA evidence, six jockeys were charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals and a bookie was charged with felony commercial gambling. More in The feds’ raid on a ‘bush track’ fizzled, so horses kept racing — and dying (Washington Post, Feb 14, 2024).

After PETA investigators uncovered evidence of cruelty to animals at unregulated horse tracks in Texas -- where 50 such tracks are known to exist -- the organization's legal team dispatched an urgent letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials calling for an investigation. More in Texas is home to nearly 50 underground horse racing tracks, investigation finds (CultureMap Dallas, April 30, 2024)

🐴 Deadly speed trials of juvenile horses: PETA has continued work to stop the practice of forcing 2-year-old Thoroughbreds to sprint at breakneck speeds in “under tack shows,” which is done to impress prospective buyers and inflate sales prices at auctions. In April, a PETA investigator captured on video the catastrophic death of a young horse named Frosten. An Ocala Breeders’ Sales (OBS) director of sales forcibly wrenched off the investigator’s backpack, and was later arrested and charged with robbery by sudden snatching. PETA then sent a formal request to the 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney, urging him to pursue criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against OBS for overdriving and willfully killing horses, which are illegal under Florida law. More in Another Horse Down: Frosten Becomes the Latest Victim of Ocala Breeders’ Sales (PETA, April 25, 2024).

2023 :

🐴 PETA's new investigative report revealed that U.S. federal protections for racehorses don’t apply to the youngest, most vulnerable thoroughbreds. The report was accompanied by a proposal for immediate industry reform.

🐴 In California, PETA persuaded the California Horse Racing Board to approve a new regulation to crack down on unlicensed "bush track" racing events that are increasingly common in California and across the United States — events involving blatant cruelty to horses as well as dangers for human participants.

🐴 In New York State, PETA Foundation attorneys filed a lawsuit on behalf of state taxpayers, alleging that an approved $455 million loan from the state to renovate Belmont Park — one of the deadliest U.S. tracks — is unconstitutional and must be stopped.

🐴 PETA rescued former US racehorses Any Given Saturday and My Elusive Dream from near-certain slaughter in South Korea.

🐴 And an important victory for other horses: PETA’s investigation of Anheuser-Busch Missouri farms, followed by a nationwide campaign, prompted the company to announce that it would stop amputating tails of its Budweiser Clydesdale horses.


2022 :

🐴 PETA’s undercover investigation of unlicensed "bush track" racing went public, focusing on the Rancho El Centenario "bush track" south of Atlanta -- one of over 100 such tracks that operate across the US, from California to Virginia. The Washington Post article A Horse Track with No Rules reported extensively on PETA's revelations of the drugging, whipping, and electroshocking that has led to numerous fatal outcomes for horses and their jockeys.

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2021 :

🐴 In New York State, PETA supported a bill that called for redirecting $230 million in annual public subsidies from horse racing to education and public services -- joining forces with a coalition representing more than 19 million New Yorkers, including New York Communities for Change; Alliance for Quality Education; Human Services Council; New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS); Horseracing Wrongs; New York State Humane Association; LiveOn New York; and Worker Justice Center of New York. This came after a PETA / Marist survey found 83% public support across the state for redirecting revenues to public services rather than to the horse racing industry.

🐴 Four bettors filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California against Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert for racketeering and fraud, after Kentucky Derby winning horse Medina Spirit tested positive for Betamethasone, a steroid that is not allowed within two weeks of racing because it masks more serious doping drugs. The precedent was the PETA-backed lawsuit that resulted in $20,000 payment to a harness racing bettor in July 2020.

Charlie July 2016

2020 :

🐴 The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act was signed into law. An early impetus for this legislation was PETA‘s 2013 investigation into Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen's treatment of racehorses including Charlie’s Quest, who we later rescued -- revealing that Asmussen's New York stable routinely administered the drug Thyroxine to horses without diagnosis of thyroid disease. PETA’s multi-pronged campaign to end drugging and other cruel racehorse treatment — which this Fund has long supported — was cited by The Washington Post editorial board among others, as the bill advanced to passage.

🐴 In a first-of-its kind lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey and financed by PETA, a harness-racing bettor received $20,000 to settle his claim that he was cheated out of winnings when a doped horse won a race in New Jersey in 2016. This sets an important precedent for more bettor litigation, putting trainers and owners on notice that there is a price to pay for drugging horses. The bettor also agreed to donate more than 1/3 of his settlement proceeds to a racehorse adoption program - a double win for racehorses!

🐴 After PETA's decade of work to end the use of performance-enhancing drugs that cause most fatal racehorse breakdowns, on March 9 federal prosecutors charged 27 racehorse trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors with “a corrupt scheme to secretly dope horses and cheat the betting public in what has become a $100 billion global industry.” Then on March 13, Washington Post Opinion published its editorial board's position that Horse Racing has Outlived its Time -- citing as key evidence PETA's 2013 investigation into treatment of horses including Charlie's Quest, who was later adopted by Greg's surviving family.



Campaign successes included a series of urgent responses after dozens of horse deaths at Santa Anita Park, California; a West Virginia racehorse necropsy program initiated after revelations of horses dumped at a landfill; and animal cruelty charges filed against a South Korean horse slaughter company.



The Campaign led the New York State Gaming Commission to implement new anti-doping regulations.



The Campaign introduced a new technology that allows bettors to donate for racehorse aftercare, to prevent these horses being sent to slaughter in Canada or Mexico.



The Fund worked with PETA to rescue racehorse Charlie’s Quest when he was at imminent risk of breaking down on the track, and then provided two months of rehabilitative care, before Greg's surviving family adopted him.