NJ Racing Commission deploys its first canine investigator

Posted: Dec. 9, 2019

The New Jersey Racing Commission has deployed its first canine horseracing investigator in an effort to deter licensees from administering illegal substances to horses.

Shadow, a 2-year-old black Labrador, is on regular patrol at the state’s racetracks, according to the NJRC and the New Jersey Office of Attorney General. According to a release, Shadow already has detected the presence of a prohibited substance.

“A big part of the job for any regulatory and enforcement agency is to stay one step ahead of those who would seek to profit by breaking our laws and rules,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Shadow is an incredible asset in that respect, because cheaters in horse racing can’t cheat without using prohibited substances, and he is specifically trained to sniff them out. Shadow is helping not only to protect horses, but to preserve the integrity of the horse racing industry throughout our state.”

NJRC Executive Director Judith Nason said the dog has “vastly increased the racing commission’s investigatory ability. One very important purpose of Shadow is to deter trainers or owners from even the thought of giving a prohibited substance to a horse. We believe Shadow will prove to be an efficient, cost-effective tool in catching and penalizing licensees who cheat.”

Nason said the NJRC has four human investigators.

Earlier this year, Grewal challenged the leadership of every division and commission within the Department of Law and Public Safety to look for ways to better serve the public by identifying new ways to collaborate with each other. The New Jersey State Police partnered with the NJRC through its canine academy identified the Labrador retriever.

Along with investigator Joseph Sczerbowicz, Shadow now spends Monday through Thursday patrolling racetracks and licensed farms to ferret out banned chemicals that might be concealed in stalls or barns—sometimes in places where a routine inspection might not uncover them, such as locked drawers, toolboxes or even piles of hay. On race days, Shadow is deployed at New Jersey’s Thoroughbred and Standardbred tracks.

Shadow lives with the Sczerbowicz family.

Nason said Shadow is trained to find many banned chemicals as well as related paraphernalia such as syringes and hypodermic needles.

“The people hiding drugs and needles have always had an intrinsic advantage because it’s easier to conceal these things than to locate them,” Nason said in the release. “But Shadow could turn out to be a true game-changer. Not only can he search a lot of territory very quickly, he can also detect banned substances in hiding places where we humans might not find them.

(Joseph Szcerbowicz, Judith Nason and Gurbir Grewal with Shadow/NJRC photo)