Safety net increases support for retired racehorses

Racing Victoria (RV) has introduced a suite of programs and initiatives to support the fifth principle of our post-racing framework – ‘Safety Net’ – for at risk thoroughbreds.

The Safety Net Program, made possible by the Victorian racing industry’s equine welfare fund, acknowledges that despite best efforts, retiring thoroughbreds, like all horses, may need extra support and often long after their first transition from racing.

The ‘Safety Net’ principle complements the current programs and initiatives underpinning our other four post-racing principles:

  • Visibility – of retired Victorian thoroughbred racehorses to the best of our ability;
  • Transition – best opportunity for a successful first transition for retired racehorses;
  • Demand – for thoroughbreds in equestrian and non-competitive environments; and
  • Longevity – for off-the-track thoroughbreds in their new homes.

The Safety Net Program creates a formal framework for a number of our post-racing programs and initiatives that are already operating or in development by our equine welfare team.

One priority initiative that is now operational is our Onsite Humane Euthanasia Program (OHEP). This is for thoroughbred racehorses where the decision to euthanise is for the best welfare outcome and has already been made by the owner.

The OHEP aims to enable owners and trainers to euthanise these horses onsite (rather than have the horse transported to a knackery or abattoir for euthanasia) in circumstances where the cost of this procedure would otherwise be inhibitive.

RV will provide funding directly to a veterinarian and/or OHEP service provider to pay for the cost of the onsite euthanasia procedure and the subsequent removal of the deceased horse, subject to the conditions outlined in the OHEP Trainers and Owners Guide.

The OHEP is not designed for or inclusive of emergency cases where immediate intervention for the welfare of the horse is necessary. These cases should be dealt with immediately by the owner and/or treating veterinarian in line with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic) and the Rules of Racing.

In addition to OHEP, we are also preparing to release an Emergency Aid Guidelines this year, which formalises support to those owners and trainers impacted by situations outside of their own control, such as natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

Work has also commenced to introduce a Foster Program, which will support those horses that no longer have a responsible owner and require short to medium term care, but have good prospects of being rehomed long term.

Further to this, our Full Circle Program will commence shortly to provide a mechanism for owners, ex-owners and other interested parties to list themselves as an ‘emergency contact’ for a retired racehorse which would allow an equine welfare delegate to contact them, should the horse ever require assistance.

Other key initiatives that are being delivered within the Safety Net Program include proactive welfare visits, working with RSPCA Victoria to investigate welfare concerns, and ensuring the Rules of Racing and licensing processes reflect our commitment to horse welfare.

If you have any questions about OHEP after reading the Trainers and Owners Guide or, any of our other programs, please contact our equine welfare team at: equinewelfare@racingvictoria.net.au or call 03 9258 4258.