NPR

Should Racehorses Be Medicated?

Thoroughbred deaths have renewed calls for reform in the horse racing industry. Industry watchers and members of Congress say it's time to address how racehorses are medicated with a bevy of drugs.
Maximum Security (right) and Country House (center) at the finish line of the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last month in Louisville, Ky. Source: Jamie Squire

There will be the usual excitement for the Belmont Stakes in New York this weekend — the third and final event of horse racing's Triple Crown.

But the sport still is clouded by the recent deaths of more than two dozen thoroughbreds at Santa Anita Park in Southern California. The fatalities have renewed calls for reform and rekindled a long-running debate – should racehorses be medicated with a bevy of drugs?

Chemical horses

On a sunny April day at Santa Anita, Kathy Guillermo looked out at the famed race track, aware that many who work there, consider her the enemy.

In their eyes, she wants to end horse racing.

But Guillermo, a senior vice president with PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – says she doesn't. After 11 year of working to reform racing, and the cluster of 26 horse deaths at Santa Anita, Guillermo says it's time to right the sport's wrongs. Especially, the issue of medication.

"As a veterinarian I know once said, race horse is not a diagnosis," says Guillermo. "And yet that's the way these animals are treated. Meaning,

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