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Stop Horse Deaths! Churchill Downs Must Act!

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Sponsor: The Animal Rescue Site

Seven horses lost their lives during a single Kentucky Derby. Demand action from the owners of Churchill Downs and take a stand for horses!

In the days leading up to the 2023 Kentucky Derby, seven horses lost their lives. The young horses met untimely deaths due to injuries sustained during training and racing at Churchill Downs1. These heartbreaking incidents underscore the inherent dangers and risks faced by racing horses, shedding light on a sport that too often overlooks their welfare and prioritizes profit over their well-being.

One of the most prevalent threats to racing horses is the fragility of their legs. The intense physical demands of racing, coupled with the tremendous strain on their limbs, make them susceptible to catastrophic injuries2. Horses are powerful animals, but their legs are delicate structures that can be easily damaged during high-speed gallops and sudden movements. The stress placed on their bones, tendons, and ligaments significantly increases the risk of fractures, sprains, and other debilitating injuries that can prove fatal.

Unfortunately, track accidents are an all-too-common occurrence in the racing industry. Horses, driven by competitive pressure and the urging of jockeys, push their limits to achieve victory. Tragically, this pursuit often leads to devastating consequences. The case of Code of Kings, who suffered a fatal neck injury after flipping three times, is a harrowing reminder of the dangers faced by these majestic creatures3. Such accidents not only end lives abruptly but also leave lasting emotional scars on the trainers, jockeys, and all those involved in the horse racing community.

Behind the glitz and glamour of the racing industry lies a dark underbelly characterized by inhumane practices and drug abuse. Despite touted reforms implemented in 2019, investigations reveal that horses are still subject to maltreatment and preventable deaths4.

Shockingly, a staggering 80% of horse deaths occur in horses between the ages of 2 and 4—innocent young lives lost due to the demands and pressures of the sport4. Horses are often drugged to mask injuries or enhance performance, leading to further health complications and risks on the track.

Trainers hold a crucial position within the racing industry, responsible for the overall care and well-being of the horses under their guidance. However, the pursuit of success and the pressure to produce winning horses can sometimes overshadow the trainer's moral obligation to prioritize the horse's health. Instances of trainers racing injured or sick horses are regrettably not uncommon, putting the animals at grave risk and perpetuating a cycle of endangerment5. The suspension of a trainer who had a horse test positive for gabapentin—a medication typically used to treat horse pain—underscores the need for strict enforcement and accountability.

The racing industry has recognized the need for reforms and has taken steps to address the welfare of racing horses. Various organizations and regulatory bodies have implemented rules and guidelines to protect the well-being of these magnificent animals. However, it is evident that there is still a long road ahead to ensure their safety and create a sustainable future for racing horses.

Every racing horse deserves a life free from harm and mistreatment, and we can ensure that the racing industry evolves into a safer and more compassionate environment for horses. Together, we can drive meaningful change and create a future where racing horses are protected, cherished, and celebrated. Sign the petition and call on Churchill Downs Incorporated to investigate horse deaths and implement stronger safety measures today!

More on this issue:

  1. Brian Kateman, Vox (9 May 2023), "At the Kentucky Derby, horses are worked to death for human vanity."
  2. Horses Only (7 January 2023), "Horse Riding Accident Statistics in 2023 (Latest U.S. Data)."
  3. Patrick Battuelloway, Horse Racing Wrongs (3 May 2023), "Victim #5: Code of Kings Suffered Broken Neck Saturday at Churchill."
  4. Joe Taglieri and Lex Talamo, Lady Freethinker (19 August 2022), "Special Report: California's Racing Reforms Still Leave Horses Sick, Beaten, Drugged, Abused and Dead."
  5. Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic (24 March 2014), "The Ugly Truth About Horse Racing."
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The Petition:

To the CEO and leaders of Churchill Downs Incorporated,

We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed by the tragic deaths of horses at Churchill Downs. These young horses lost their lives due to injuries sustained during training and racing. These heartbreaking incidents emphasize the urgent need for immediate action to protect these defenseless animals. We implore Churchill Downs Incorporated, as the owners of Churchill Downs, to thoroughly investigate these horse deaths, as well as the trainers and jockeys using this track, and to swiftly implement measures to save future horses from suffering a similar fate.

The racing industry must confront the high physical and emotional toll it places on horses The pursuit of victory often leads to devastating consequences for both horses and those involved in the racing community. Each tragic accident serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by these magnificent creatures and the lasting emotional scars left behind.

To support a brighter future for racing horses, we urge Churchill Downs Incorporated to take the following actions:

  1. Thoroughly investigate the recent horse deaths at Churchill Downs and hold accountable those responsible for any neglect or mistreatment.
  2. Implement comprehensive measures to safeguard the welfare of racing horses, including strict enforcement of rules, thorough veterinary oversight, and the prohibition of drugging and racing injured or sick horses.
  3. Collaborate with industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and animal welfare organizations to develop and enforce stricter regulations throughout the racing industry.
  4. Increase transparency by publicly disclosing injury data, drug testing results, and veterinary records to promote accountability and identify areas for improvement.
  5. Prioritize the adoption and aftercare of retired racehorses by supporting and funding organizations dedicated to their rehabilitation, retraining, and secure placement in loving homes.

This is an urgent appeal to Churchill Downs Incorporated and all industry stakeholders to prioritize the welfare of racing horses. We demand a comprehensive and immediate effort to address the inherent risks faced by these animals and to create a safer and more compassionate racing environment.

The time for change is now. Let us unite to protect the lives and well-being of racing horses, ensuring that they are treated with the dignity, respect, and care they deserve. Together, we can pave the way for a future where the sport of horse racing celebrates the beauty and athleticism of these incredible creatures while safeguarding their lives.


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