California Bill Aims to Boost Track Safety in Response to Racehorse Deaths

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Horses run on the turf course at Santa Anita Park in March 2019. (Credit: J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Horses run on the turf course at Santa Anita Park in March 2019. (Credit: J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A California lawmaker introduced legislation Tuesday that could require more safeguards for racehorses after dozens died in recent years at a Southern California track.

Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa said his bill is expected to include reforms recommended by the California Horse Racing Board and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, including improved veterinary medical review before races and more transparency in drug testing.

Thirty-seven horses died last year at Santa Anita Park and two so far this year.

“We must ensure track conditions are right and horses are fit before they hit the starting gate so we aren’t jeopardizing them and their jockeys,” Dodd said in a statement.

The new legislation follows a law Dodd wrote last year that allows the board to suspend racing at tracks where dangerous conditions exist. He heads the Senate committee that sets policies for the horse racing industry.

Lacey’s office last month said it found no evidence of animal cruelty or other crimes at the racetrack. It said the 49 horse deaths during a 12-month period ending in June was a rate higher than the national average, but was lower than some years in the last decade and lower than Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

But Lacey made two dozen safety recommendations and said she would seek legislation to make horse racing veterinary records more transparent.

The board is expected to release the results of its investigation later this month.

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