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New York Passes Groundbreaking Anti-Slaughter Bill

Law supports aftercare programs, bans sale of racing, breeding stock for slaughter.

Michael Burns

Groundbreaking anti-horse slaughter and aftercare legislation was passed June 10 by the New York State Assembly and is expected to be signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The bill, which had already been passed by the New York State Senate, prohibits the sale or transfer of Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing or breeding stock for slaughter. Violations are misdemeanors punishable by $1,000 fine per horse or $2,500 per business entity and will be doubled for second violations. Violations are also subject to Gaming Commission license implications.

Fines collected will go the State Breeding Fund to be deposited solely for aftercare contributions.

The bill also calls for racehorses to be microchipped and registered with The Jockey Club and has a provision that will allow residents and corporations to receive credit for donations to Thoroughbred aftercare programs through their tax return.

"This legislation positions New York as the national leader when it comes to responsibly protecting our retired racehorses," said New York Racing Association president and CEO Dave O'Rourke. "NYRA is proud to have long supported all elements of this important legislation because it reflects our commitment to Thoroughbred aftercare. We thank Senator Joe Addabbo (Jr.) and Assembly Member Gary Pretlow, Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committees, for prioritizing the health and safety of Thoroughbreds in New York."

NYRA already has a rule in place stipulating that any owner or trainer stabled at a NYRA facility found to have sold a horse for slaughter will have his or her stalls permanently revoked from all NYRA tracks. NYRA requires its horsemen to do due diligence in the release of horses from their care. 

"NYTHA and all our members are gratified that we are able to work with animal advocates both within the sport and in the legislature to achieve this historic legislation benefiting horses that are bred and raced in New York," said New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association president Joe Appelbaum.

The New York Thoroughbred Breeders also worked alongside NYRA and NYTHA in vigorously lobbying for the legislation. 

"The breeders of New York State certainly thank the sponsors of this legislation as well as the entire state legislature," said Thomas J. Gallo, president of New York Thoroughbred Breeders. "This is landmark legislation that not only ensures the protection of our equine athletes, but adds a key necessary level of integrity to our sport."

Passage of the bill was aided by the legislative support of Addabbo and Pretlow.

 "As Chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, I understand the importance of aftercare for racehorses in the racing industry," said Addabbo, who represents the 15th Senate District that includes Ozone Park where Aqueduct Racetrack is located. "Greater oversight, including ensuring there is appropriate funding available for aftercare, microchipping to track ownership, and holding owners accountable in instances of slaughter, are all critical to improving the racing industry and future fate of horses. Over the past 10 years, a variety of nonprofits and for-profit businesses have been created to address the aftercare problem, so it's exciting to see new regulations being implemented to ensure proper care is in place for horses after they retire. My thanks to the equine advocates and my colleagues in government in advancing this significant legislative initiative."

Pretlow, from the 89th Assembly District that includes Mount Vernon and Yonkers, added, "This effort was a hard fought and long overdue recognition of an issue that has, for years, gone under the radar. Equines have, for centuries, benefited the world, and served to advance the human condition. It is impossible to think about our lives today without gratitude for their service and usefulness, and in the racing industry, wonderment at their astonishing speed, agility, power, and gracefulness. Yet for all their value and the joy they bring to us, they often suffer from inhumane treatment by the very industries they benefit. This bill is a strong step in the direction of rectifying this, and I am proud to have sponsored and championed it."