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Santa Anita receives rebuke from racetrack veterinarians group

Santa Anita receives rebuke from racetrack veterinarians group
Santa Anita has canceled races through March 29 because of horse safety concerns. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Santa Anita’s controversial plan to reduce the amount of Lasix a horse can have on race day received a rebuke on Tuesday from the North American Assn. of Racetrack Veterinarians.

Under its plans to reopen the track for racing on March 29 after the deaths of 22 horses at the site, the Stronach Group is changing medication rules pending approval of the California Horse Racing Board. That approval is expected March 28. While most of the proposals have received widespread approval, the one where Lasix would be eventually eliminated on race day has been met with much criticism.

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The proposal would reduce race-day Lasix from 10 cubic centimeters to 5 cubic centimeters for horses that are currently racing. However, next year’s crop of 2-year-olds would not be allowed Lasix on race day. This would eventually lead to horses not allowed any Lasix to be racing against horses who can have Lasix, because their status has been grandfathered in.

Lasix is a medicine that is used to ease exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH), or bleeding from the lungs. It makes it easier for horses to breathe. Extensive medical research has found no links between Lasix and breakdowns.

“However there is abundant evidence that reduction and elimination of furosemide (Lasix) administration will lead to increasing levels of EIPH and subsequent pulmonary disease in our horses,” the NAARV said in a news release.

The statement went on to say: “The result is that it has been decided that appeasement of specific sectors of our society as well as a minority of stakeholders in our industry is more important than prevention of [EIPH] in our horses.”

While not mentioned by name, it’s likely that members of the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are the “specific sectors” that the NAARV was referring to. In PETA’s latest statement, it referred to owners and trainers as “Lasix addicts,” and concluded with: “If one more horse dies, there will be blood on the owners’ hands and hell to pay.”

Neither Del Mar nor Los Alamitos plan to adopt the Santa Anita Lasix rules and will still allow 10 cc of the medicine on race day.

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