Photo by Mathew Schwartz via Unsplash

The New York State Assembly passed what is being described as “groundbreaking” legislation related to the aftercare of retired race horses on June 10. 

Bill S1442B would amend the agriculture and markets law by making it  illegal for any person, company or other entity to slaughter or have a race horse or race horse breeding stock slaughtered.

Andrew Cuomo, Gov. of New York, is expected to sign the bill into law. 

The bill, which gained bi-partisan support, will protect both thoroughbred and standardbred horses which meet or have ever met the standards required to race under its definition of “race horse.” It will cover both young foals intended to be used as a race horse, as well as the stallions and mares used to breed race horses under its definition of “race horse breeding stock.”

“The reason why I love this bill is that it came from the industry itself and we flushed out the details. We worked with the breeders and the horsemen. They were all a part of the initial draft of the bill. All around the industry, we found support and those in the animal rights groups all support it as well,” said Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., State Senator of New York.

Any individual who violates these new stipulations will be fined $1,000 per race horse for a first offence, and companies will be fined up to $2,500 per horse for first offences. A second and any subsequent offence will see these fines doubled. Violators may also have their Gaming Commission licenses revoked.

Collected fines will go to the New York state thoroughbred breeding and development fund, which funds the operation of retired race horse aftercare facilities, horse retirement and rescue programs.

The bill will also require breeding programs to designate funds to go towards the aftercare of retired horses.

“I can’t imagine who can be against the ban of horse slaughter and more funds to care for the retired horses,” said Addabbo. “Importantly, there is no cost to the state involved.”

According to The Coalition For The Protection Of Racehorses, horses which are bred for racing are often retired in as little as 3 years. Once injured or past their prime, race horses rapidly decrease in value. It becomes more cost-effective to sell them than to continue paying for their care. 

Horse slaughter plants are already banned in the U.S., so the hope for this bill is to protect race horses from being sold in slaughter auctions. These operations keep horses of all levels of health in poor conditions until they are sold at very low prices. 

But people who benefit from the slaughter of horses have found ways around anti-slaughter laws in the past.

“There are no federal laws specifically addressing horse auctions. While many states have vague laws regulating the operation of livestock markets, few address the care or treatment of horses at auction or even require that they be provided food or water,” The Humane Society of the United States said on their website.

Most horses bought at these auctions are shipped outside of the U.S. and slaughtered to obtain their meat for human consumption, despite the known health risks. Race horses in particular are likely to be treated with hormones or performance-enhancing drugs which are toxic to humans when consumed.

Despite their aftercare options being limited, race horses are bred in excess. Since slaughter auctions are profitable to breeders an approximated 10,000 horses to slaughter annually, as estimated by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). 

This bill aims to discourage sale into slaughter auctions and help make available more facilities and homes that will look after retired race horses.

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