ARCI: Feds could assist in racing regulation without legislation

Posted: March 15, 2019

The Association of Racing Commissioners International March 14 said the re-introduced federal Horseracing Integrity Act fails to consider recommendations from state regulatory agencies that oversee horse racing in the United States.

It’s the third version of the bill, a copy of which is not yet available. The first version of a bill by the same name didn’t ban race-day Lasix but granted a proposed authority the right to do so; the second one called for a ban on all race-day medication, and the third is expected to do the same.

ARCI has actively opposed the legislation, and it offered ways the federal government could assist the states in the regulation of racing without legislation.

“The sponsors of this legislation have proposed nothing to address the significant part of the racehorse industry that is totally unregulated,” ARCI President Ed Martin said. “This bill will do nothing to protect horses.”

The bill is being pushed by the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which is led by The Jockey Club. As of March 14 it had 37 sponsors.

ARCI has been particularly concerned by use of bisphosphonates in younger horses, particularly those sold at commercial auctions. The federal bill does not address the sale sector of the Thoroughbred industry.

“It is shocking that the use of bisphosphonates on young horses is not addressed given the significant concern that they adversely affect bone development in young horses and contribute to stress fractures as they do in other mammals,” Martin said. “We already know stress fractures can be a precursor to increased risk of a catastrophic breakdown. This issue was presented to lawmakers at the public hearing on (the Horseracing Integrity Act) in the last Congress, yet they continue to focus on repealing a long-standing equine welfare program permitting controlled furosemide administration on race day proven to be helpful to the health of the horse and recently affirmed by a consensus statement from the independent American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.”

Martin outlined suggestions he presented to Congress in 2018:

Require all horses bred to be racehorses be registered with and come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which would have ARCI maintain the data for use jointly by APHIS and state racing commissions.

Empower APHIS to make rules affecting young horses not yet under the jurisdiction of a state racing commission.

Direct APHIS to contract with state racing commissions for the purpose of out-of-competition equine welfare examinations to determine adherence to the APHIS rules.

Authorize APHIS to recover costs for such inspections from the owners of any horse inspected, consistent with state racing commission contracts entered into for this purpose.

Require that a portion of the existing funds—$9.5 million—appropriated by Congress each year for anti-doping programs through the White House Office of National Drug Policy be available to fund anti-doping research of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium consistent with anti-doping needs identified by the Organization of Racing Investigators or the ARCI.

Adopt the ARCI model rules affecting equine welfare and medication by reference, thereby achieving universal uniformity in regulation.

Require the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency to each dedicate at least one agent for the sole purpose of assisting state racing commissions in the conduct of investigations, particularly those that cross jurisdictional lines. The FDA already has such an investigator assigned.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019 was introduced the same day The Stronach Group announced a number of measures for its two California racetracks, including a ban on race-day Lasix.