NY, KY Regulators to Probe PETA Allegations

The New York Gaming Commission said March 20 it is investigating allegations of "abuse and mistreatment" of Thoroughbreds after receiving information gleaned from an undercover investigation performed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Also, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission acknowledged receipt of information from PETA and said it will initiate an investigation and take action if warranted.

The New York Times first reported on the PETA probe and resulting allegations March 19. The NYGC said its investigation was initiated after it was provided evidence of alleged violations.

"The allegations and footage provided by PETA are extremely troubling, and we are fully investigating the matter," NYGC acting executive director Robert Williams said. "PETA has offered to assist the commission in its investigation, and we welcome such cooperation. We expect that all other parties involved will be forthcoming as well.

"If the results of our investigation find that licensed individuals violated the state's laws and rules, the commission will consider all options."

KHRC spokesman Dick Brown said the regulatory body had received information from PETA but had not yet reviewed it.

"The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has received documents from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals regarding allegations of animal cruelty last year by two trainers working at Churchill Downs," Brown said in a statement. "The commission staff has not yet had the opportunity to review the information. The KHRC will conduct a thorough investigation of these allegations and take appropriate steps once that investigation is concluded.

"The KHRC takes allegations of cruelty to animals very seriously. When our racing stewards are notified of any possible activity that involves cruelty to horses at licensed facilities, the stewards take prompt action to investigate and take the appropriate action. The KHRC strongly encourages anyone who has knowledge of, or suspects incidents of abuse to animals, contact the commission immediately."

The undercover PETA investigation, which includes hours of secretly-taken video, focused on the stable of trainer Steve Asmussen and assistant Scott Blasi during 2013 meets at Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course. Part of its focus was use of therapeutic equine medication.

Others identified in PETA video or documents are attending veterinarians Drs. Joseph Migliacci and James Hunt, and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

The NYGC said it initiated an investigation March 18 and "will obtain and review all footage documenting the allegations." The NYGC Office of Veterinary Affairs, led by equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer, is assisting in the investigation.

"The behavior depicted in the undercover video and supporting materials is disturbing and disgusting," Palmer said. "We are working to determine what happened and ensure that proper protocols are put in place to prevent such actions from taking place again."

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