LOS ANGELES — If one local animal commissioner has his way, Los Angeles will soon become the first major city in the country to ban all activities related to horse racing.
Commissioner Roger Wolfson, who recently encouraged the Los Angeles Board of Animal Services to pass a motion banning rodeos in the city, has placed an item on the board’s Tuesday agenda described as “Opposition to Horse Racing in the State of California.” Its goal is to have the board recommend that the City Council draw up an ordinance that would prohibit horse racing and off-track betting in the city of Los Angeles.
“I’m hopeful that we can take a real stand — no city that I know about has taken a stand on this,” Wolfson told City News Service recently. His unusual effort grew out of the recent controversy at Santa Anita Park in nearby Arcadia, where 30 horses died during the winter/spring racing season that concluded in late June.
“We’re the department of animal services, not the department of companion animal services, and anything that affects the well-being of animals in Los Angels is in our purview,” Wolfson said. And while Los Angeles does not appear to have any off-track betting sites (there are some in Los Angeles County), making the direct economic impact of such a measure negligible at best, Wolfson told CNS he doesn’t view his proposal as symbolic. “This wasn’t a political calculation,” he said. “Look, 30 horses have died at Santa Anita; that’s a nearby city. We’re concerned about it.”
The Los Angeles City Council has shown a willingness to take the lead on animal rights issues in recent years, including a ban on the use of so- called bull hooks, a law prohibiting the display or renting out of elephants, snakes, tigers and other wild or exotic animals for many entertainment purposes, and a ban on the sale of animal fur that passed earlier this year and is slated to go into effect in early 2021.
The proposed ban on rodeos has yet to be reviewed by the council.
Wolfson’s horse-racing measure has the support of many animal rights activists, including Horseracing Wrongs — a New York-based group that advocates for a nationwide ban on the sport, and plans to be at Tuesday’s meeting.
The horse racing industry has pushed back on the idea of banning the sport in the face of the persistent deaths, emphasizing the widespread enactment of safety protocols at California tracks since the Santa Anita deaths began drawing publicity in the spring.
Track workers, including jockeys and stable workers, have said shutting down the industry would lead to thousands of job losses.