Press Release

Animal Wellness Groups Support FTC-Approved New and Improved HISA Standards for Racehorses

Updates include prohibited practices and safety protocols, and go into effect July 8 

Washington, D.C. — Animal wellness groups reacted to a new set of rules approved by the Federal Trade Commission for a Racetrack Safety Program, which was created under the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA).

“We welcome these new standards as a major step forward for industry transparency and accountability to protect racehorses from unwarranted harm and death,” said Fred Hudson, director of Equine Welfare for Animal Wellness Action. “It’s much better than the old system of see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing, and do nothing.”

The rules create a range of penalties for violations of whipping regulations and offer the ability to issue an immediate suspension of a racetrack’s accreditation among other measures for horse safety. These rules were submitted to the commission last September, as HISA was investigating horse deaths at three tracks, including Churchill Downs and Saratoga Race Course.

The new rules go into effect July 8 and include:

  • Updated void claim rule
  • A second waiver claiming option
  • Changes to certain intra-articular injection standdown times. Covered Horses administered any intra-articular injection in the fetlock joint will be unable to participate in a workout for 14 days, and unable to race for 30 days.
  • Updates to prohibited practices
  • Updates to qualifications for placement on and removal from the vets’ list
  • Enhanced safety protocols required at race meets

Also included are HISA registration rules that take effect July 1 and include:

  • Any entity that owns a Covered Horse must register with HISA
  • Any veterinarian who provides veterinary services to Covered Horses must register with HISA
  • Responsible Persons must update a Covered Horse’s location within 24 hours and report equine fatalities within 72 hours.

“This is real progress for the Thoroughbred industry, underscoring that no state should be permitted to pump their equine athletes full of medications that put horses at risk in competition and scramble the results for wagering,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and a key architect of the national law

Stricter regulations on medications in horse racing have led to record years in terms of equine safety overall in 2022 and at HISA tracks in 2023 as evidence that the more-restrictive approach to corticosteroids, clenbuterol, and other controlled medications is working. In 2023 HISA tracks saw a 32.5% lower breakdown rate than non-HISA tracks.

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