PA commission adopts Equine Safety and Welfare Action Plan

By: Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission

Posted: Feb. 25, 2022

The Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission has adopted an Equine Safety and Welfare Action Plan, a list of tangible steps to increase protections for Thoroughbred horses racing in the state. The plan will be implemented beginning March 1, 2022.

The plan, consisting of 10 measures to be carried out by the industry and the commission, was developed by a group of industry representatives over the past several months. The group examined the feasibility and effectiveness of actions taken in other states as well as steps that are likely to be implemented in coming years as a result of federal legislation.

Some steps in the plan will require new commission regulations and some can be achieved by new or revised commission policies. The commission and its staff will oversee and enforce the implementation the plan.

Penalties and other details will be address in forthcoming regulations. As part of the process of adopting new regulations, steps in the action plan that require regulatory change will be put out for public comment.

Steps in the action plan are as follows:

  • Racetracks will conduct an independent, third-party analysis of the racing surface twice a year. The first analysis at Thoroughbred tracks is to be completed within 60 days and submitted to the commission.
  • Increase monitoring and oversight of morning workout sessions. Employ additional veterinarians to conduct oversight and examination.
  • Require the practicing veterinarians to attest that each horse is in fit, serviceable and in sound condition, and is suitable to race.
  • Trainers must submit a pre-entry form to the racing panel for permission to race. Form requires the submission of the most recent 30-day medical reports for horses entered to race. The racing panel consists of the race secretary, commission veterinarian, steward and horsemen’s representative.
  • Institute a rule for lower-level conditions or classes—a horse that doesn’t finish in the top four positions in five consecutive races is deemed non-competitive and is not eligible to race in Pennsylvania.
  • Require the practicing veterinarian to conduct an examination within 48 hours of a horse being placed on the vet’s list due to lameness. The examination will assist in determining the cause and if diagnostics are warranted. The practicing veterinarian will provide a verbal report to the commission veterinarian.
  • Intra-articular injections: The initial injection is permitted based on the practicing veterinarian’s examination and recommendation. Any additional injections require diagnostics to support further injections. If any injection is a corticosteroid, the horse is placed on the 30-day vet’s list.
  • Establish stricter criteria for removal from the vet’s list, utilizing diagnostics, scanning and imaging.
  • Establish a pilot program to install either a PET scan or MRI equipment to aid in the detection of bone issues.
  • Create a Pennsylvania fatality database.

In addition to the 10 actions listed, the commission is in the process of adopting regulations requiring continuing education for track personnel, as well as instituting an Integrity Hotline for reporting violations.