Skip to content

Horseracing bill mirrors DesJarlais goals for WH industry




By Sadie Fowler

A bill in the horseracing industry backed by a Kentucky congressman holds similar intent to that of U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ bill that relates to the Tennessee Walking Horse industry and amending the Horse Protection Act.

Both bills aim toward creating unified standards for each respective breed in terms of objective standards in terms of evaluating horses who perform, be it on the track or in the show ring.

Rep. Andy Barr, who represents the sixth district in Kentucky, announced support last week of the Horseracing Integrity Act.

Rep. Barr plans to reintroduce the legislation to create uniform medication standards across the 38 different racing jurisdictions in the United States, according to a press release issued on his website, barr.house.gov. The act would create an independent anti-doping program to ensure that all racing states are playing by the same anti-doping rules, and that all racing jurisdictions are in step with international standards.

Regulation of horse racing in the United States is highly fragmented among the 38 racing states, which has led to a wide disparity in the effectiveness of medication testing and enforcement.

“Today, horseracing in America took a great step forward,” Rep. Barr said. “Frank Stronach, Founder and Honorary Chairman of North America's largest Thoroughbred racing company, The Stronach Group, announced his unqualified support for the Horseracing Integrity Act. This bipartisan legislation, which I sponsored with Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), will finally bring uniformity and independence to horseracing’s anti-doping program and no race day medication.”

Barr is also a sponsor of a bill introduced by Rep DesJarlais, of Tennessee, which would amend the Horse Protection Act on behalf of Tennessee Walking Horse enthusiasts. DesJarlais’ act aims to create a better enforcement system, one which relies on local expertise, objective science, and produces healthy animals.

 Objective testing would include the use of blood samples and more use of digital X-rays. The inspection administrator would be a single industry enforcement entity, the Horse Industry Organization (HIO) under the HPA. Currently the HPA is enforced by multiple HIOs that all have different rules and enforcement guidelines.

 Mike Inman, CEO of the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, applauded Barr’s efforts, as well as DesJarlais’, and said both industries have similar needs of a uniform regulatory system.

 “A single, industry-wide independent compliance organization using objective, repeatable science-based testing without the need for government funding is the common sense effective route to consistency and effectiveness,” Inman said. “This initiative by Congressman Andy Barr to improve the racing industry mirrors the legislation Congressman Scott DesJarlais has put forth for the Tennessee Walking Horse Industry. Hopefully both pieces will continue to gain support in the upcoming months.”

The Horseracing Integrity Act would create an independent anti-doping program to ensure that all racing states are playing by the same anti-doping rules, and that all racing jurisdictions are in step with international standards. Currently, regulation of this industry is highly fragmented, Barr’s release said.

Barr’s bill designates the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), a non-profit, to oversee a nationwide program to protect the racing industry.

The Stronach Group, which has announced its full support of Rep. Barr’s bill, is one of the world’s leading horse racetrack operators, owning racetracks including Santa Anita Park, Pimlico Race Course (home of the legendary Preakness), and the Gulfstream Park, one of Forida’s newest entertainment destinations.

 DesJarlais’ current bill, re-introduced March 2, kept the same original list of co-sponsors, Phil Roe (R-TN-1), Jimmy Duncan (R-TN-2), Chuck Fleishmann (R-TN-3), Diane Black (R-TN-6) and Blackburn from Tennessee. Hal Rogers (R-KY-5) and Andy Barr (R-KY-6). There are two new co-sponsors from Kentucky, James Comer (R-KY-1) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY-2). Comer replaced Rep. Ed Whitfield in the new Congress.

The inconsistency in inspections, conducted by both the USDA Veterinary Medical Officers and industry Designated Qualified Persons, has severely damaged the Tennessee Walking Horse industry. At the 2016 Celebration, USDA Veterinary Medical Officers disagreed 22 percent of the time on whether a horse was compliant or not and 52 percent of the time the VMOs disagreed on their inspection finding.

More Stories