A B.C. humane society is raising welfare concerns after multiple horses died at a racecourse in Vancouver, but the provincial ministry in charge says it will continue to take the advice of the contracted official veterinarians.
The Vancouver Humane Society noted in a release Thursday (Aug. 10) that it’s speaking out against the use of animals in entertainment after recent horse deaths at the Hastings Racecourse and Casino in a two-week period. The release Thursday morning noted that three horses had died and one was injured. Black Press Media has since learned that a fourth horse died on Aug. 7.
Humane Society communications director Chantelle Archambault said this really just goes to show the risk to the horses at every stage of the process from racing to training to being transported. She said anytime these animals are used for entertainment in high-pressure events, “there’s a risk to their lives.”
The Public Safety Ministry oversees the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch which is responsible for regulating the B.C. horse-racing industry and licensing its participants to ensure racing is conducted safely and with integrity.
The branch develops and enforces rules and policies for horse racing, regulates horse racing events, and licences and registers all participants and workers in the industry.
The gaming branch contracts official veterinarians, licensed by the College of Veterinarians of B.C., who are at the racetrack during races. The ministry says the branch “always follows the advice of the veterinarians on matters related to the health and welfare of the horses.”
The ministry confirmed four deaths between July 16 and Aug. 7.
On July 16, One Fifty One fell during a race, and was attended to by a contracted veterinarian. The horse was euthanized based on the recommendation of the veterinarian due to an unrecoverable injury, a fractured bone in a front leg.
On July 22, Lent Me Twenty was entered in a race but flipped over backwards in the paddock area before the race and struck its head on the ground. The horse was attended to in the paddock by a veterinarian, but it died of its injuries.
On July 30, Memorandum was euthanized after racing when it “took a bad step” and unseated its jockey, but the horse stayed on its feet. It was attended to by a veterinarian. The horse had an injury on the right front ankle and the veterinarian determined that the horse should be euthanized, as the injury was unrecoverable.
Then on Aug. 6, Eddie Who was in the process of a timed workout at the racecourse. During the workout, the horse fell and unseated its jockey. The horse never got back onto its feet and passed away shortly after the fall. A veterinarian examined the horse and confirmed that it was deceased.
Archambault said the stressful, high-speed nature of the races poses inherent welfare concerns. The society pointed to research from a U.S. study that noted during the training and racing of two-year-old racehorses, 85 per cent suffered at least one incident of injury or disease
“It is really important to ask what is being done to ensure horses are safe. The fact that there are still horses racing tells us that the risk to their lives isn’t being taken seriously.”
The gaming branch, according to the ministry, “takes steps to prevent and respond to incidents that occur during the race season, but unfortunately horse injuries and deaths can occur.”
When an incident takes place, a veterinarian will attend, examine the extent of the injury and then make a determination. The veterinarian then develops a report which is provided to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.
“If the horse does not survive the incident, the horse’s body is sent for a necropsy for further analysis; any anomalies are investigated further. GPEB is not aware of any anomalies or relationships between the horse deaths at Hastings this race season.”
The ministry says the gaming branch will continue to take the advice of contracted veterinarians “to protect the health and welfare of racehorses, and will continue to monitor incidents to determine if further actions are required.”