New York state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. is confident that the state will emerge as a national leader in protecting retired thoroughbred racehorses after this month’s final approval of a new law aimed at preventing horse slaughters.
The legislation sponsored by Addabbo seeks to protect New York’s retired racehorses by preventing them from being sent to slaughter facilities. Addabbo’s bill, which was passed during the spring legislative session, was signed into law on Dec. 2 by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“Everyone in the industry shares the responsibility of ensuring safe and healthy lives for racehorses after they have retired. The thoroughbred racing industry has taken major steps towards this effort, but the state has an obligation to ensure greater participation which is why passing this new law is so important,” Addabbo said in a statement.
Disrupting the pipeline to Canada
While there is not a single slaughterhouse in New York state, a historic racetrack in Saratoga is located less than 150 miles south of the Canadian border. Although U.S. horse exports have fallen sharply in recent years, approximately 36,000 horses were shipped over the border to Canada and Mexico in 2020 to be slaughtered for consumption by humans, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). By comparison, the figure peaked at an average of 137,000 over a five-year period through 2016.
Good news for racehorses
Senate Bill 1442, which is sponsored by Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-15th District), would prohibit the slaughter of racehorses & breeding stock, and would make it illegal for a person or other entity to “import, export, sell, offer to sell or barter.. pic.twitter.com/uLK5mnTd82
— Pixie Dust (@AdrienneC123) February 6, 2021
There are four licensed slaughterhouses in Canada, including two in Quebec, based on research from the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals.
“New York State I-87 should not be a direct pipeline for horses being trucked to Canada for the cruel
act of slaughter,” the New York State Humane Association wrote in a fact sheet railing against the activity.
The sentiments are echoed by Susan Kayne, head of the Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation, an upstate New York nonprofit focused on preventing racehorses from exploitation and slaughter. The foundation, based about 25 miles south of Albany, protects, rescues, and provides shelter for former racehorses who are at risk of being slaughtered. Kayne was one of several equine welfare advocates who helped Addabbo craft the legislation.
“Thoroughbreds and standardbreds have been slaughtered en masse over the years, with New York’s own Thruway as a main artery to Canadian slaughter plants,” Kayne told the Albany Times-Union. “To get something into law that has language that begins to protect horses is at least something that we can build on.”
Benefits of microchipping
Addabbo’s bill requires the microchipping of all racehorses for tracking purposes, with the ultimate goal of preventing them from being sent to a slaughterhouse. In 2015, the New York Gaming Commission sought to locate every retired New York-bred horse that raced over a three-year period through 2012. Of the nearly 3,895 horses that fit the bill, the commission located approximately 48% of the thoroughbreds. The 2021 summer meet at Saratoga Race Course featured 76 stakes races worth $21.5 million in purses, while the fall meet at Belmont Park offered 20 graded stakes over a 28-day meet that ran through Oct. 31.
No horse, mare, gelding, colt or filly shall be eligible to compete in any race, unless it is first microchipped and registered with the jockey club, United States trotting association, American quarter horse association, the national steeplechase and hunt association or such other entity, as applicable and as the commission may designate. The commission may request that all microchip information be provided and available to the commission as necessary pursuant to this chapter
The legislation has been applauded by the New York Racing Association, the operator of Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course.
“NYRA supports all elements of this important legislation, and we thank Gov. Hochul for prioritizing the health and safety of horses in New York,” said Patrick McKenna, NYRA’s senior director of communications, in a statement.
Days before the 2021 Belmont Stakes, NYRA announced a groundbreaking partnership with BetMGM through which NYRA Bets became the sports betting operator’s first horse racing partner. NYRA Bets is searching for ways to use sports betting to increase fan engagement in horse racing, NYRA Bets President Tony Allevato told NY Online Gambling on Belmont Stakes Day in June.
While NYRA Bets will not directly accept sports wagers on its platform, it is possible that customers will eventually be able to use a shared wallet that is linked to player accounts with BetMGM. Last month, BetMGM was one of nine sportsbook operators that received a conditional mobile sports betting license in New York.
With mobile sports betting expected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue to the state, equine wellness groups may push for added state funding for thoroughbred aftercare programs such as Kayne’s nonprofit organization. The law states that individuals found to be in violation of the racehorse slaughter ban will be subject to a misdemeanor punishable by fines and a possible suspension or revocation of their state gaming commission license.
Photo: Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY