Prosecutors will not file criminal charges against racetrack where 49 horses died

Friday, December 20, 2019

Prosecutors in Los Angeles said they will not file criminal charges against the owners of Santa Anita racetrack in California after 49 racehorses died this year.

Investigators with the District Attorney's Santa Anita Task Force said there was "no criminal wrongdoing at Santa Anita Park" and they "did not find evidence of animal cruelty or unlawful conduct."

According to the 17-page report, which focused on the dates of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, 39 deaths were the result of "catastrophic breakdowns during racing or training," 10 were because of illness or "non-racing accidents" and 23 were a result of the "unusually heavy rains in Southern California."

Twenty-one of the horses were the age of 3 and 26 were gelding, or castrated male horses, according to the report.

Thirteen horses died in January, the most of any month.

While seven racehorses that died during the current fiscal year are still under investigation, prosecutors have made 26 recommendations for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), which operates under Governor Gavin Newsom's office.

"Horseracing has inherent risks, but is a legally sanctioned sport in California," according to Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who does not have jurisdiction over the horse racing industry. "Greater precautions are needed to enhance safety and protect both horses and their riders."

The task force also identified "several areas of concern" at the racetrack that "may have contributed to the deaths" such as the track conditions and using injured horses, according to the report.

The CHRB agreed with the prosecutor's recommendations and "most of the others either are in the process of being implemented or under consideration," according to a statement.

Some of the suggestions that CHRB are in the process of considering or establishing include: education programs for the trainers, prohibiting horses from racing within 30 days of receiving extra-corporeal shock wave therapy and having pharmacies and drug dispensaries on racetrack premises.

Prosecutors plan to sponsor legislation to create transparency of veterinary records for horses training and racing on California tracks.

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