Local rule endorsed to further protect welfare of thoroughbreds
The Racing Victoria (RV) Board has endorsed the introduction of a Local Rule of Racing (LR) aimed at further protecting thoroughbreds.
The local rule, which will come into effect from 1 February 2024, will prohibit industry participants sending live thoroughbreds to knackeries or abattoirs.
The decision to implement the rule was made by the RV Board only after it was satisfied that the range of world class post-racing transition programs put in place over the past five years provided genuine options to support all healthy thoroughbreds to transition to successful second careers.
The new rule, LR 94C, states that:
A person must not directly or indirectly engage in and/or facilitate the transport, movement, delivery, sale or rehoming of a thoroughbred horse to an abattoir, knackery or similar facility.
For the avoidance of doubt, subrule (1) does not apply to:
a. The humane euthanasia of a thoroughbred horse by a registered veterinarian or licensed firearm holder at a veterinary clinic or the property at which the thoroughbred horse resides; or
b. Thoroughbreds that are already deceased which are transported, moved, delivered, or sold.
For the purposes of this rule:
Thoroughbred horse means any horse admitted to (or eligible to apply for admission to) the Australian Stud Book or an International Thoroughbred Studbook.
This rule will be considered a Serious Offence and heard by the Victorian Racing Tribunal.
Since accelerating and expanding its equine welfare strategy in 2019, RV has implemented a suite of post-racing transition programs specifically designed to assist industry participants to find the most appropriate post-racing career for their retired racehorse. This includes:
RV’s Acknowledged Retrainer Program;
Post-racing Transition Pathway Guide;
Acknowledged Retirement Farms Program;
Retired Thoroughbred Companion Program; and
Clerk of Course Subsidy Program.
Where euthanasia has been deemed the best welfare option for a thoroughbred – for example where the horse has a chronic injury or disease with negligible prospects or exhibits dangerous behaviours – the introduction of LR 94C and the option for owners to access RV’s Onsite Humane Euthanasia Program (OHEP) will enable the thoroughbred to be euthanised onsite in a familiar and comfortable environment.
Established in March 2021, OHEP allows owners to have their eligible thoroughbred euthanised onsite, with RV funding the approved Veterinarian and/or OHEP Service Provider’s costs to provide the onsite euthanasia services and the subsequent removal of the deceased horse (noting emergency euthanasia is not covered by OHEP).
Importantly, thoroughbreds nominated for OHEP are first assessed by RV to determine if an alternative option is available via one of its post-racing transition programs.
It is only with these safeguards in place that RV can confidently meet community expectations that live thoroughbreds are not disposed of directly from the Victorian Thoroughbred Racing Industry via abattoirs or knackeries.
In considering the rule, RV’s equine welfare team undertook extensive consultation with industry stakeholders and relevant service providers.
RV Chief Executive, Andrew Jones, said: “Our focus in the past five years has been on building a sustainable post-racing framework that provides alternate pathways for retiring thoroughbreds.
“There is now a full range of programs for healthy retired racehorses. If humane euthanasia is the best welfare outcome, for example where a horse has a chronic injury or disease with negligible prospects or exhibits dangerous behaviours, this can be done humanely onsite rather than at a knackery.
“With the implementation of OHEP in March 2021, we have a safeguard in place for thoroughbred owners and to help avoid the overseas experiences that have led to worse welfare outcomes for thoroughbreds.”