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'Industry-wide approach' needed to fund post-retirement programs, officials say
By Matt Hegarty
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Racing needs to devise an “industry-wide approach” to funding and operating post-retirement programs for racehorses so that all facets of the sport contribute to the effort, several officials who spoke at the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law conference on Tuesday said.
The officials, who run post-retirement placement programs at lower- or middle-tier tracks, said that they currently bear a greater burden for finding homes for retired racehorses than their larger counterparts because of the greater proportion of near-retirement horses that typically perform at their tracks. As a result, the tracks are usually placed under greater scrutiny than larger tracks, even while having fewer resources to devote to their post-retirement programs.
“Since we’re often the last stop, we’re considered to be more responsible,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs in East Boston, in an interview following a presentation about the track’s efforts to ensure that horses retired off the track find homes. “I don’t want to sound like we’re complaining, because we’re committed to our own effort, and we believe in it. But some states and some jurisdictions are clearly doing more than others, and I think we need an industry-wide solution to stretch the economic burden more proportionally.”
Tuttle and others spoke Tuesday at the law conference during a day-long program devoted to horse-welfare issues. The conference was to continue Wednesday with a program dedicated to casino-gambling issues in the state.
The comments from officials who spoke during the program highlighted the hodgepodge array of organizations that are attempting to address an issue that has become a cause célèbre both inside and outside the racing industry. Currently, many racetracks operate individual post-retirement programs, in some cases because tracks are required to have an affiliation with aftercare organizations as a condition of a voluntary accreditation program, but also in many cases because the industry is rapidly responding to concerns about the fate of its retired athletes. Those programs also strike relationships with a smattering of individual offtrack retirement programs with their own funding sources.
Funding for the ontrack programs is usually provided through a combination of assessments on racing participants and contributions from tracks and horsemen’s organizations. Those contributions, however, are usually insufficient to provide funding for a horse’s retirement, so the organizations focus on finding adoptive homes for retired animals.
“Our funding is always a problem,” said David Brown, president of the Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which runs a placement program that can provide transition space for only 18 horses at a time. “We never have enough money. We are not large enough, nor financially stable enough,” to take any horse that retires off the track, so some horses slip through the program’s cracks.
Several organizations are seeking to involve a larger number of industry participants in providing funding for post-retirement programs, including the recently formed Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Those efforts will likely extend soon to the breeding industry and the auction industry, which do not have any programs that require funding for retirement programs (the Jockey Club allows breeders to voluntarily contribute through an opt-in program attached to foal registrations).
“It’s time for everyone in the industry to step up and contribute to aftercare,” Mike Ziegler, director of the TAA, said during the conference. He called the efforts to involve all the facets as a way to “share the burden.”
Kraig Kulikowski, a veterinarian and equestrian, said during a presentation on post-retirement programs that breeders should be required to contribute to post-retirement programs at the time that foals are registered, in part to provide adequate funding for the programs but also to discourage breeders from producing foals without considering and contributing to the costs of a horse’s long-term care.
“If your argument against this idea is economic because you do not want to put financial hardship on breeders and owners, your concern puts their wallet first and the horse’s welfare second,” Kulikowski said.
Tuttle and his family have taken in one of the retired Suffolk horses. He said it is costing his family $12,000 a year to care for the horse.
“We love him, and he’s a great horse,” Tuttle said. “But it’s not without its financial consequences.”
Like others mentioned..24% takeout rates, $4-10 beers, breakage,etc. The money should be coming out of all the taxes we pay and it is b.s. that it isn't. Instead we like to use taxpayers money to pave over good roads and test ketchup flow rates.
Does not anyone in the industry understand that funding for racehorse retirement and rehabilitation must be mandatory? Has it not been proven over and over that voluntary funding does not work? Besides the horses deserve a portion of the revenue for their well being. The thoroughbred racing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry nationally and the money is there to support the horses. The industry needs to stop procrastinating about this issue and implement mandatory funding at every racetrack. The majority of money needs to come from a percentage of the purses but mandatory fees must be placed on breeders and jockeys and racetrack management should commit to a mandatory fee as well. Of course there needs to be accreditation and oversight of facilities as well and monitoring of horses. These programs that put horses on the Internet for adoption and then do not follow up on them or only for a short period of time does not work and many horses end up in harm's way. The mentality that a retirement and rehabilitation program should be a “run them in and run them out” program is wrong and does not serve or protect the horses in the long run. Adopting mares out to be bred to produce more horses is not helping the situation either and should be banned. Since 2004 our organization has asked and advocated to the industry to fund racehorse retirement on a mandatory level. It is now 2012. It is a disgrace that the very fiber of the industry, the horses are still not being financially supported properly and many are still ending up at auction or slaughter. This is not rocket science stuff here folks and can be done but it is going to take a lot of hard work, dedicated people, constant monitoring of the horses and oversight of facilities in addition to the substantial perpetual funding that is needed. Every week, month and year the thoroughbred racing industry procrastinates about this issue there are thoroughbreds in harm’s way or standing in a kill pen and crying out for help and no one comes because of money. Surely our horses deserve better than that.
Daylami -- to clarify, we don't have a farm. The $12,000 a year is board, riding lessons, vet bills and incidentals. We're happy to pay it and he's had a great conversion from race horse to pleasure horse. I only mentioned it to point out that the economics of adopting a Thoroughbred can be daunting for people who don't necessarily have the resources that we do. Onward...
There should be a percentage of all purse money off the top, an already retained piece of track, simulcast and ADW handle (don't hit the horseplayer for more), auction sale proceeds, consignor and sale company commissions, breed registration (and each time a horse changes hands privately), state award program registrations, and a small increase on all industry participant license fees contributed to a retirement fund for horses, managed by TJC, and distributed to accredited retirement organizations for caring for and retraining former racehorses.
There are 6 entities involved in horse racing: 1. Owners 2. Bettors 3. Trainers 4. Jockeys 5. Race track operators 6. State that collects taxes and breakage Caegories 1 and 2 (owners and bettors) supply all the money while categories 3, 4, 5 and 6 take that money and split it between themselves. Therefore, monies to fund post-retirement care for these horses should come from the bottom 4 categories.
How about a "horseplayer welfare" program? Nobody give a F*%@ about how the players get hosed over and over in this game. Think about it all you "horse-lovers-they-must-be-taken-care-of-types" - if everbody stops betting on horses, there will be no more horses to worry about. That being said, here's a reasonable solution - fix the game so that it is once again a viable gambling platform, and direct all the outragous breakage funds that get stolen from the players every year to help take care of these animals. But in the meantime, I don't care where these horses go, as long as the industry doesn't care about the customers that fuel this industry - the players.
Perhaps if there werent so many hoop to jump through and fees to be paid for adopting, more would do it. We love our adopted standardbred and it costs about $2000 a year for him (and he competes in trail riding). If we could call up the race secretary and ask, "do you know anyone who needs a home." Things would be easier. I know many trainers would give the horse for free since, for some, there is a tax write-off. I think the adoption agencies are trying to make money to run elaborate farms. I hope that isnt the case, because most horses just want a home... outdoors. With Suffolk Downs 2.5 hrs from where I live, I would love nothing more than to take some of those depressing clm5000N2L's anyday.
$12,000 A YEAR for one horse on your own farm? WHAT HOGWASH!
$12,000 a year - WHAT HOGWASH!
I'm all for this agenda. It would lower the instance of sending our athletes to slaughter houses. These horses deserve better treatment after their careers. By sharing the burden, breeders become more responsible in their practices, and racetracks as well as the horsmen can ensure a better quality of life for these animals.
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