LA County DA will investigate Santa Anita horse deaths
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has assigned investigators to work with the California Horse Racing Board to look into the sudden rise of horse deaths at Santa Anita since the track started its meeting on Dec. 26.
The move comes after 22 horses incurred fatal injuries resulting in euthanasia at the Arcadia track. The district attorney’s office has also been in contact with the Pasadena Humane Society, which has notified the Arcadia Police Department, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
On March 1, PETA requested that an investigation be held into the horse deaths as violations of California animal cruelty laws. In the three-page letter to Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, the animal rights group cited historical data but nothing specific about the latest deaths of horses.
In a news release, PETA said that an investigation should target trainers and veterinarians.
There was no immediate comment from the Horse Racing Board. A Santa Anita spokesman referred The Times to the organizations that represent trainers and veterinarians.
The district attorney made the move on Thursday after Princess Lili B, a 3-year-old filly, broke both front ankles at the end of a four-furlong workout on the main dirt track. She was later euthanized. It was the 10th death in dirt training, adding to seven during dirt racing and five during turf racing.
There were no incidents Friday during 96 timed workouts. Seventy-four horses worked on the main track and 22 on the training track.
After Thursday’s death, the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area, announced a series of measures on Thursday it said will make racing safer. But instead of bringing a sense of calm to an industry on the precipice, it has been met with skepticism and a warning it could lead to the destruction of horse racing in California.
Santa Anita, closed for racing since March 5, is scheduled to reopen on March 22.
The new measures include a race-day ban on Lasix, a diuretic used to ease breathing and lessen the chances of bleeding from the lungs. Almost every country outside the U.S. bans its use on race day. According to the Jockey Club, only 3.6 percent of the almost 300,000 starts last year were made without Lasix.
John Sadler, trainer of last year’s Eclipse Award and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, fears a lot of horses will be removed from California if Lasix can’t be used. Sadler and other trainers belonging to the California Thoroughbred Trainers met at Santa Anita on Friday morning to discuss the latest changes. The Thoroughbred Owners of California will have a conference call on Saturday afternoon.
“This stuff is so new, I don’t know how it will be implemented or when,” Sadler said.