Due to an unusually high number of equine deaths over a short amount of time, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has announced that a task force will be officially investigating Santa Anita Park, according to a recent press release.
“I have formed a task force of experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers with varied expertise within my office who will thoroughly investigate and evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park,” Lacey says.
Each of the 23 equine deaths will be categorized into the location of the death. Ten horses have died during training on the main dirt track. Seven more horses died on the dirt during or after races. The latest death, a 5-year-old gelding named Arms Runner, occurred on dirt; however, it will be categorized as a turf, or grass, fatality, according to The Los Angeles Times. Arms Runner fell on the dirt track crossover during a 6 ½-furlong race on the hillside turf course. He broke his right front leg.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has requested an investigation into the deaths since March 1.
“The public deserves to know whether injured horses were medicated and subjected to painful shockwave therapy just to keep them running, even though their bones were likely to snap,” says Kathy Guillermo, PETA senior vice president. “The racing industry has shown that it’s capable of policing itself, and PETA hopes this task force investigation will finally lead to the end of abusive practices that are killing horses on tracks in California.”
The establishment of a task force comes after California legislators introduced a bill that would authorize the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to suspend racing in dangerous conditions without being subjected to the 10-day meeting notice.
The entire sport of horse racing has faced increased scrutiny from animal-rights advocates and gained significant public interest as a result of the high number of equine deaths. There were only 20 total deaths during Santa Anita’s 122 racing days in 2017, according to the Jockey Club.
“We welcome an investigation,” says Alan Balch, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers. “It’s long past the time that these unfounded accusations be proven wrong and that everyone realize that our trainers’ first concern is always for their horses.”