California Bill to Benefit Retired Horses Submitted

A bill providing that 20 percent of the proceeds from California racing "charity days" go to nonprofit corporations caring for retired racehorses has been introduced in the state assembly.

John Van de Kamp, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, told the state horse racing board on Feb. 21 that the assembly bill (AB 771 by Mark Wyland, R – Carlsbad) would provide roughly $200,000 a year to such facilities. The TOC lists passage of the bill as one of its main legislative goals this year.

"I'm glad to hear it," said Pam Berg, who runs one such operation, the Glen Ellen Vocational Academy's Equine Retirement Foundation in the Sonoma County wine country. "That could really help."

She said she is encouraged by a change in perception toward the care of retired racehorses within the industry, because it has not responded very well in the past.

"Personally, I think there is much more public awareness of the problem than in the past and it has caused pressure to do something."

Besides GEVA, other nonprofit groups involved in the care of retired racehorses in the state include the California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF), the United Pegasus Foundation and Tranquility Farm, Berg said.

The bill, which is tentatively set for a committee hearing on Mar. 22, would require the California Horse Racing Board to maintain a list of qualifying charities and adopt regulations for the proper expenditure of the funds.

Charity day proceeds go to a number of causes, including a backstretch program to combat drug and alcohol abuse, a workers' welfare fund, support of disabled jockeys and other charities associated with the horse racing industry.

Van de Kamp said money allocated for retired racehorses would be distributed without adversely affecting racing's support of other charity causes.

Charity days require each racing association in the state to set aside net proceeds on specified days for the benefit of tax-exempt groups involved in activities approved by the CHRB.