Letter To The Editor: Positive Changes In Pennsylvania - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Letter To The Editor: Positive Changes In Pennsylvania

Over the past few months there have been stories about various state racing commissions doing or not doing things for the good of the sport. The Triple Crown season always brings more of a spotlight on the sport and, most times, how there is no progress being made.  Quietly, however, one state racing commission has been making positive strides in improving the safety, welfare, and integrity of the sport and industry.  That state is Pennsylvania.

There perhaps has not been a more public vocal critic of the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission than myself over the last few years (a look back at my public comments at meetings will show this).  However, I must say that the changes being announced, implemented, and backed up with action are extremely pleasing to see.

The issues that have plagued the industry (and Pennsylvania has often been called the prime example of these issues by many) are not something that are going to be solved overnight.  It is going to take time and effort to do this.  What the Pennsylvania Racing Commission has finally done is taken a good hard look in the mirror and identified specific areas that need to be addressed and changed.

That started with the Committee on Equine Welfare and Safety that the Commission created.  The Committee came out with 11 “action items” that were going to be implemented in various stages of time (anyone familiar with the process to get regulations passed in Pennsylvania knows of the length of time it takes) with the goal of improving the safety of the horses, the safety of the participants, and the integrity of the sport in the public eye.

It is one thing to just come out and say you are going to do something.  It is quite another to do it, and, so far, the Commission has backed up its words with action.  At each monthly meeting Thoroughbred Bureau Director Tom Chuckas gives as detailed a report on where each of the action items sits in the implementation process as well as a review of any enforcement actions taken.  It is evident from what is reported at the meetings – such as barn and vehicle searches turning up syringes and medications that should not be there, “jog up” inspections of horses in various barns (leading to a few being flagged for closer inspection and one being placed on the vet's list), and an increasing number of out-of-competition tests being done each month – that the Commission and its investigative team are taking this task very seriously and letting the public know it.

I know there are those out there who will still say the tracks in Pennsylvania are a cesspool and the Commission has no idea who the real cheaters are and such.  Well, for those that claim to have all this inside info on the cheaters and what they are doing, a special “integrity hotline” has been created that allows you to leave this information anonymously. The number for this hotline is (717) 787-1942.  You must leave a detailed message, and someone will only contact you back if you specifically request it.  Otherwise, the calls will be investigated based on the message left.

So far, 20 calls have been placed to the hotline with eight being completely resolved and 12 still being investigated.  Yes, we would all like to know all the details of these investigations and who was investigated (myself included), but we also must realize that information does have to remain private for these things to work properly. So as the old saying goes, “If you see something say something.”

A person who makes poor lifestyle choices for decades of their life is not going to turn everything around and have the effects of those choices disappear after a month at the gym.  The same is true of this sport.  It has taken decades for this industry to get to where it is, and it is going to take more time than any of us would like to right the ship properly.  Some agencies and tracks continue to turn a blind eye to things and hope it will all be OK or offer lip service about change with no evidence to back it up.

Pennsylvania is finally taking the right steps to bring integrity and safety back to the sport, and Director Chuckas and the Commission are to be commended for their efforts so far.  I look forward to the continuation of these positive developments.

Bryan Langlois, DVM
Vice President, ThoroFan
AVC 2005

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