06/23/2016 10:30AM

Humane Society forms horse-racing advisory council


The Humane Society of the United States has formed a horse-racing advisory council and will step up its efforts to lobby for a federal bill providing for national oversight of the industry’s medication and drug-testing policies, officials of the group announced on Thursday.

The newly formed National Horse Racing Advisory Council will be chaired by Joe De Francis, the former controlling shareholder in the Maryland Jockey Club. The council will be the tip of the spear of a new campaign by the Humane Society to draw attention to what Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society, called the “doping of horses” and other “chronic problems within the industry” during a conference call to announce the formation of the council.

“Today, we are announcing that [horse racing] is moving up on our priority list,” Pacelle said.

Last year, the Humane Society joined a lobbying organization pressing for the adoption of the federal bill, which would give a private, nonprofit company, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the authority to devise and enforce national medication and drug-testing policies. The organization, the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, also includes The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup Ltd., the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and the Water Hay Oats Alliance, and it enjoys strong support from many central Kentucky breeders.

Other members of the advisory council include Jim Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club; Stacie Clark Rogers, the operations consultant for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; Allen Gutterman, a former racing executive who is a partner in a racing consulting firm; Joe Gorajec, the former executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission; Staci Hancock, a founding member of WHOA; and Chris McCarron, the retired Hall of Fame jockey.

On the conference call, De Francis said the focus of the council will be the effort to pass the federal legislation, which was introduced last year in the House but has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing. The bill has drawn opposition from several powerful constituencies in the racing industry that are wary of federal involvement in an industry that has long been regulated on a state-by-state basis, despite widespread inconsistencies between states on medication rules.

“The reason we are focusing on the federal effort is because this cannot be done on a state-by-state basis,” De Francis said.

Pacelle said he believed a companion bill would be introduced to the Senate this summer, but he would not provide the names of potential sponsors. He said the Humane Society would be aggressive in promoting its efforts to address racing’s problems.

“We believe a national industry needs a national regulatory framework,” Pacelle said. “We really plan on elevating this issue in the nation.”