Statement from Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, on Kentucky Derby Death

(May 5, 2008) — Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement on the horse racing industry following the tragic death of Kentucky Derby finisher Eight Belles:
“This industry has not had a rigorous critic to set it in the straight and narrow, and major problems have grown and festered. It's time for the thoroughbred industry to deal with its problems, and if it does not, animal advocates may well decide they can no longer continue to give the industry a free pass.
Here are some of the historic problems. Drugging of injured horses to keep them running, which makes vulnerable horses more susceptible to breakdowns. Racing horses too young. Because the marquee events feature three-year-olds, these horses must start racing at the tender age of two years, and that's well before their skeletal systems are sturdy enough to endure the pounding from the rigors of the race track. And third, racing horses on track surfaces that are not forgiving — with American tracks favoring dirt surfaces over grass or synthetics.
And then there are the problems coming to light more than ever — problems related to breeding. Breeding too many horses, and waiting for someone else to clean up the problem. And breeding them for body characteristics that make these animals vulnerable to breakdowns, especially those spindly legs on top of these stout torsos.”