New York Lawmakers Consider Aftercare Measures

A horse trains at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York
A horse trains at Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York / Anne M. Eberhardt

Bills would create registry and panel to work with state Gaming Commission.

New York lawmakers, within weeks of wrapping up their 2019 legislative session, are considering measures regarding the handling and treatment of retired racehorses.

The chairmen of the Senate and Assembly racing and wagering committees have similar measures—though not “same as” bills at this point—regarding the creation of a state government commission on retired racehorses.

“The purpose of the commission is to monitor the whereabouts and treatment of retired racehorses to further prevent the illegal transport of horses into the inhumane slaughter industry,” state the documents of both bills outlining the measures’ legislative intent.

The Senate bill, authored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrat, has been reported out of the committee process and can be voted on during any upcoming session day before the 2019 gathering in Albany ends June 19.

The Assembly bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat, was reported this week out of the codes committee and is now pending before the ways and means panel.

The two bills’ provisions are not far apart. Whether the two bills get matched up and approved this session is uncertain. Similar bills have died the past couple of years in Albany.

The bills would create a panel that would work with the state Gaming Commission to track a New York-bred Thoroughbred after it has stopped racing. A registry of the horses would be created to include information furnished by owners about each former racehorse; owners who fail to supply information would be subject to fines. 

The panel would also be charged with identifying ways “to address the well-being and/or employment of retired racehorses, including but not limited to strategies to address the issue of abandoned racehorses and to prevent the slaughter of retired racehorses.” A variety of information about retired racehorses would be published on the Gaming Commission’s website, according to the legislation.

The bill memo for both the Addabbo and Pretlow legislation states: “In addition to horse slaughter being a huge breach in proper and ethical treatment of animals, this serves as a significant food safety issue for humans considering that the majority of horses are administered drugs and medications that are not meant for any animal intended for human consumption.”

The bills also apply to the Standardbred industry.

In a separate bill introduced in January in the Assembly and getting a “same as” bill introduction this week in the Senate, owners and trainers would be required to take an online course regarding “the responsible and humane retirement of horses.” The state would also create material about treatment of retired racehorses that would be distributed by equine veterinarians.

Completion of the course would be a condition for keeping a license to work in the racing industry in New York under the bill by Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, and Sen. Monica Martinez, a Suffolk County Democrat.

“Owners and trainers of horses accept the responsibility to humanely care for and train their animals. As such, this responsibility needs to be continued until the end of the horse’s life,” states the bill memo accompanying the legislation.

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