President’s Message:

Trainers Abusing Racehorses

Those of us who care about the well-being of horses, especially those trapped in the horse racing industry, are often reminded of what those equines can suffer at the hands of unscrupulous trainers. There have been instances of horses being abused by angry trainers, as well as numerous cases of horses illegally drugged to enhance performance. It appears that the quality of life for a racehorse means nothing in the race for financial glory.

A case in point — according to news reports, trainer Amber Cobb was suspended for two years by the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission for “improper or inhumane treatment” of an animal, along with conduct detrimental to racing. There were no details as to what that inhumane treatment actually was. In addition to the suspension, Cobb was ordered to attend an anger management program. Sadly, the suspension was subsequently reduced to two months. Also frustrating is news that the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission issued its own ruling of a two-month suspension against the same trainer, based on the same evidence. Why the reduction? If what she did was so heinous as to merit a two-year suspension, why lower it to a mere two months? And furthermore, why wasn’t Cobb charged under Delaware’s animal cruelty laws that specify that it is a misdemeanor for anyone to subject any animal to cruel mistreatment or cruel neglect. (Watch video acquired via Freedom of Information Act request of Amber Cobb terrorizing her racehorse.)

Cobb also caused problems at the Finger Lakes Racetrack in NYS where she was fined for “engaging in an altercation in a public area” and on another occasion for “addressing fellow licensees in an inappropriate manner.” It seems this person should not be around horses or even horse people.

Not to be outdone, trainers Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro, along with 25 others affiliated with the racing industry, were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of NY on charges of conspiring to administer performance enhancing drugs to racehorses over a period of several years. Numerous horses experienced injuries and some died as a result, while big profits were realized by the owners and others. The case appears to be going to trial in 2022. But again, I read nothing of animal cruelty charges, despite the fact that the drugs given to these horses resulted in injuries and death.

Pat Valusek, president of New York State Humane Association
Pat Valusek, President of New York State Humane Association.
Folks, it appears that if these horses are not being beaten, they are being drugged, not to mention the cruel whipping they are subjected to in every race. We can only hope that in the drugging case, the federal charges hold firm and the perpetrators are sent to prison for a long time. That is more likely to happen because human animals were hurt financially by the fraudulent actions of the conspirators. However, when it comes to non-human animals being hurt by cruel treatment — that behavior is not recognized by the industry or treated with the same seriousness. So rather than charging those responsible with cruelty in addition to the other penalties and charges, the cruelty is simply disregarded and charges ignored. You can bet that if trainers were being beaten or whipped or forcibly given illegal drugs, the outcomes would be far different.

Always be kind to animals,

Patricia Valusek

New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XXXVIII Fall 2021.