An effort to mandate the tracking of retired racehorses in New York has now picked up support in both houses of the state Legislature.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrat who represents Aqueduct Racetrack, recently introduced a measure to create a seven-member Commission on Retired Racehorses to monitor the whereabouts and treatment of retired Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. The new Senate bill by Addabbo, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, is the same as one introduced in the Assembly earlier this year by Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat who chairs that chamber's racing committee.
"Horses have played a significant role in the history and culture of the United States," a bill memo accompanying the legislation states, noting that racehorses in New York have generated billions of dollars in economic activity in the state.
"Despite what they may have contributed, many horses at a young age (that) are no longer profitable or affordable for the owner, wind up in international slaughterhouses to be inhumanely slaughtered for consumption abroad, where horse meat is a major delicacy," the bill memo adds.
The proposed commission would consist of seven members, a majority of whom would be appointed by the heads of the Assembly and Senate. Representatives of Thoroughbred and Standardbred owners and trainers would recommend two of the panel's members. Members would serve on the unpaid posts for two-year terms.
The legislation says the commission would work with the New York State Gaming Commission, which has been pressing the retired racehorse issue for years, to track what happens to horses after they stop racing. For Thoroughbreds, the bill would apply to New York-breds that are retired.
The commission will have access to "any relevant information" retained by state breeding and development funds, and it will work with the NYSGC "to identify methods by which the information in the retired racehorse registry may be utilized to address the well-being and/or employment of retired racehorses." It says such efforts can include such issues as abandoned racehorses and how to prevent slaughter of retired racehorses. It also will be charged with coming up with additional ideas for the "funding, care, and treatment" of retired racehorses. Silent in the bill is how much the commission's work will cost or who will pay for it.
Information in a retired racehorse registry will be updated quarterly on the Gaming Commission's web site, the legislation states, and the new panel will provide information to the state regulatory agency of any suspected violations regarding the treatment of retired racehorses.
The bill puts reporting requirements on horse owners, requiring reports to be filed with the state within 72 hours of any ownership change of a retired racehorse, along with contact information about owners and other recordkeeping rules. The death of a former racehorse must also be reported to a state registry within 72 hours. Each violation of the measure's provisions can be assessed a fine up to $500—if violators are a resident of New York State.
Using Jockey Club data, the NYSGC spent nearly two years compiling the whereabouts of every New York-bred Thoroughbred that raced between 2010 and 2012. Of 3,894 horses that raced in that period, the commission was able to locate 1,871 horses. Of those, 356 were deceased, three sold at auction and 1,512 were retired in some form, such as 604 retired as broodmares or 155 adopted.
Of the 2,204 horses for which locations could not be determined, the agency said 313 of those ran their last Thoroughbred race at Finger Lakes, 221 at Aqueduct, 201 at Belmont Park, 58 at Saratoga Race Course, and the rest at out of state tracks.
The agency, listing names of the horses on its web site, also has been asking the industry and public for more information about the whereabouts of the retired racehorses it could not locate. The agency this year produced a video to raise the profile of the issue and has been running annual summits in Saratoga that bring together various industry stakeholders.