SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new state assembly bill aims at preventing horse deaths and injuries at California racetracks.
Assemblyman Ash Kalra introduced AB 2177 on Feb. 11. Under the bill, larger race tracks would have to install cameras inside horse stalls, provided CT scanners to detect potential horse injuries and have an onsite pharmacy, among other safety measures and regulations.
The bill would also require the California Horse Racing board to suspend a trainer’s license if their horse died during racing or training while the board investigates.
“It’s just wrong. It’s not fair,” said longtime racehorse owner and trainer Kimberly Marrs. Marrs, based in Bonsall, said she believes the bill goes too far.
“You can’t eliminate all risk. Something could happen that is totally out of your control and now you’re suspended, and now you can’t operate and earn a living,” Marrs said. “I think you’re going to send most of the trainers packing out of the state because there’s no security.”
Others like animal rights activist Ellen Ericksen believe the bill does not go far enough.
“This is not going to save any horses lives,” Ericksen told FOX 5.
Ericksen called the CT scanner an “ineffective tool” that does not have the capability to detect other potentially deadly health concerns. Ericksen protests regularly outside of the Del Mar racetrack.
“We are pushing for a ban in horse racing. That’s the only way we’re going to save horses’ lives,” Ericksen said.
Josh Rubinstein, president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, issued the following statement in response to the proposed regulations:
“The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) is committed to working with the legislature and equine experts to ensure the safest possible environment for California’s horses and riders. In 2017 DMTC began a series of industry-leading reforms which resulted in Del Mar being ranked as the safest race track in North America in both 2018 and 2019. As a founding member of the national Thoroughbred Safety Coalition, DMTC continues to work with industry stakeholders to advocate for and implement the highest standards of safety and welfare for our equine and human athletes.”
The reforms include continued trainer education, which Marrs said she supports and participates in.
“We don’t want these animals injured. We love these animals. They’re our life’s blood,” Marrs said.
The bill’s next hearing is scheduled for March 13. Opening Day at the Del Mar racetrack is July 18.