Letter To The Editor: More Transparency Of Racehorses’ Medical Records Is Needed

Jerry Brown, in an op/ed recently published in the Thoroughbred Daily News, stated his belief that horses running in stakes races were not running true to form possibly because of not running on Lasix in those races. Brown pointed out that these horses may have been scoped post-race, but very often the fans, handicappers, and the public have no idea what the results of these scopes are.

This issue is not related to just scoping a horse looking for bleeding, but in all facets of a horse’s medical care, including when it comes to the death of a horse that occurs on the grounds of a racetrack or training center. Racing woefully fails this transparency test, a fact known for years.

I know that there are legal hurdles to making this information easily accessible. Medical records kept by a veterinarian can only be released to another party with the consent of the owner of the animal in question. This type of language is present in basically every Veterinary Practice Act in every single state in the country. I also know that there is an easy fix to the issue as well. All that is needed is to add a simple line or two on every state racehorse owner license application that reads something akin to, “I hereby give consent for the medical records of any horse that I have a full or part ownership in to be released or transferred to a party requesting them.”

It should just be a required part of being able to obtain an owners license. All it takes to make it happen is the desire for change.

I know one of the arguments against providing full transparency of medical records and fatal injury data has always been that the public will not understand it, and the animal rights crowd will try to twist it to fit their narrative on things. Well, that argument is correct on both counts. You know what else is correct though? It is taking the time to make the information easy for the public to understand and fighting back against the misinformation.

The industry can no longer rely on the old refrain of “You just don’t understand the industry” when presented with any question or argument against racing. Take the time to explain what we all “don’t understand,” especially to followers of the sport who have the greatest chance of becoming fans.

It is something I have come to call the “10-80-10” rule that I have learned from working in the non-profit realm. 10% of people are always going to think racing is wrong, inhumane, and should be forever banned. They are never going to see a different point of view or accept explanations of data that are not fitting their narrative. On the other end of the spectrum there are 10% of people who think nothing needs to change in the racing industry and there really is not a problem at all. They will not agree to changing anything even if the data points to a need for it. Neither extremes are where racing needs to focus (even though both often shout the loudest and we all know what wheel get the grease).

What racing needs to focus on is the 80% in the middle that are asking to be heard but are also willing to sit down and discuss things in a productive way that benefits the sport and its fan base. Providing not only transparency but an explanation about that transparency in a manner that people can understand builds the trust needed to bring new blood into the game.

–Dr. Bryan Langlois, past president of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, board of directors of Animal Care PA and Thorofan

If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, please write to info at paulickreport.com and include contact information where you may be reached if editorial staff have any questions.

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