Press Release

50 Horse Deaths at U.S. Tracks in 2021 Underscore Need for Further Reforms in Horse Racing

West Virginia, New York, and California Lead in Body Count

New York, N.Y. – Racehorses continue to die on American tracks with alarming frequency, reminding the industry and the American public that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) enacted on December 27, 2020, has not taken effect and that rampant doping still menaces horses and jockeys in competition.

According to racing industry data from Equibase, the New York Racing Association (NYRA), California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), and other racing authorities and reports, 50 racehorses have died in 2021 at U.S. tracks, the majority at one track in Charles Town, West Virginia operated by Penn National Gaming, and at tracks in New York and California (a complete list can be found here). As active horse racing continues amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the reported deaths follow a February Associated Press story on the first three deaths at Charles Town Race Course and an investigative report that revealed 113 deaths in Florida since early 2019.

“The continued rash of racehorse deaths across the U.S underscores the need for aggressive implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act and adherence to higher welfare standards in American horse racing,” said Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action in Washington, D.C. who testified before Congress on the subject of horse racing welfare concerns in 2020. “Race track operators and racing authorities should immediately ban the use of the whip, evaluate track surfaces and safety, and implement new policies to prevent American racehorses from ending up slaughtered as slabs of meat on foreign dinner plates. Our iconic American equines deserve better.”  

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which takes effect mid-2022 bans the use of race-day medication and creates a uniform national standard for drug testing in the U.S. overseen by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

Irby, who was recently honored by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II for his work to protect American equines, led the charge within the animal protection space in support of HISA and has long advocated ending the use of the whip, and for the passage of the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, led by U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that would ban horse slaughter on U.S. soil, and ban the transport of American equines for the purposes of slaughter.

Nearly 100,000 American equines end up in the slaughter pipeline each year. Click here for a complete list of all 50 racehorse deaths in 2021. 

Animal Wellness Action is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) whose mission is to help animals by promoting laws and regulations at federal, state and local levels that forbid cruelty to all animals. The group also works to enforce existing anti-cruelty and wildlife protection laws. Animal Wellness Action believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @AWAction_News

Center for a Humane Economy is a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(3) whose mission is to help animals by helping forge a more humane economic order. The first organization of its kind in the animal protection movement, the Center encourages businesses to honor their social responsibilities in a culture where consumers, investors, and other key stakeholders abhor cruelty and the degradation of the environment and embrace innovation as a means of eliminating both. The Center believes helping animals helps us all. Twitter: @TheHumaneCenter

Animal Wellness Foundation is a Los Angeles-based private charitable organization with a mission of helping animals by making veterinary care available to everyone with a pet, regardless of economic ability. We organize rescue efforts and medical services for dogs and cats in need and help homeless pets find a loving caregiver. We are advocates for getting veterinarians to the front lines of the animal welfare movement; promoting responsible pet ownership; and vaccinating animals against infectious diseases such as distemper. We also support policies that prevent animal cruelty and that alleviate suffering. We believe helping animals helps us all.