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Gaming Commission proposes changes to bans on horse joint injections

Emily Burkhard
Updated: October 29, 2019 09:27 AM
Created: October 28, 2019 07:09 PM

There are new developments on a NewsChannel 13 investigation into the death of race horses.

A report on the 2014 Saratoga Racing Meet raised questions about the use of anti-inflammatory medication injected into horse’s legs. On Monday the New York State Gaming Commission proposed banning those medications two weeks before a race.

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The Gaming Commission’s agenda said press would be able to hear the commission's discussions about this proposed change via live stream. However, when the meeting came online a little after 2 p.m., an hour after the meeting was scheduled to begin, the commission was already discussing subsequent matters on the agenda.

NewsChannel 13 asked what happened and a spokesperson for the gaming commission first said the proposal would be published once it's been approved by the commission. When a reporter pressed them on why those watching the live stream couldn't hear the discussions as advertised the gaming commission representative said they had technical issues with the live stream.

The current rule says joint injections are banned within a week of racing, but there are some exceptions. A local equine vet NewsChannel 13 spoke with said extending that window to two weeks, and eliminating exceptions is a step in the right direction, but he thinks more needs to be done.

Dr. Kraig Kulikowski is an equine veterinarian in Ballston Spa who has worked with race horses.

“These changes as I said are a good step in the right direction but it's not enough to protect these horses from all the injuries that they're receiving,” Kulikowski said.

The injections can mask pain or "lameness" that otherwise may be flagged during pre-race exams. Kulikowski said they can affect the horses for weeks or months following injection.

"So it may be important that after especially joint injections that there is a period of time to make sure that the horse is comfortable after the injections before they work at speed," Kulikowski said.

Kulikowski said he'd like to see the gaming commission move toward more regenerative therapies, but he said that's unlikely to happen because those options are more expensive and time-consuming.

Patrick Batuello is the President and Founder of Horse Racing Deaths. He said he believes the proposed changes are meant to drum up good press for the industry.

"All these other things that they are bandying about including this proposal is a way to distract the public and make it seem like they're doing something positive and constructive," Batuello said.

Batuello said more people are paying attention to animal cruelty in places like the circus, SeaWorld and greyhound racing recently. He said with 2,000 horses dying nationwide each year, people should start to think similarly of this sport.

"Why should horse racing be given cover under the banner of sport when in fact the cruelty in the killing dwarfs all those other industries combined?" Batuello said.

NewsChannel 13 has asked to speak with the Gaming Commission's Equine Director, Doctor Scott Palmer, twice in the last week, but our interview requests haven't been returned.

NewsChannel 13 has also asked for the reports from the Saratoga Race Course in 2016, 2017, 2018. The most recent report they've given is from 2014. In the 15 deaths that occurred during that meet, this proposed injection policy change could have prevented only one of those deaths.


Copyright 2019 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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