Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act
Building on the Horseracing Integrity Act (S.1820/H.R.1754), with the bipartisan support of almost 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) is landmark legislation that directly addresses the safety and welfare of racehorses, and the integrity of the sport itself, through better anti-doping measures and racetrack safety standards.
In an illustration of the broad industry support for change, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) signed into law in December of 2020 was supported by all three Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The effort continues to enjoy the support of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity (CHRI), which includes the Jockey Club, the Breeders Cup, Keeneland Racecourse, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, the Water Hay Oats Alliance, and animal welfare groups like Animal Wellness Action, and the Animal Welfare Institute.
The fractured nature of anti-doping and track safety efforts across the U.S.’s 38 racing jurisdictions has undermined the public’s confidence in horseracing, threatened the integrity of competition, and endangered the human and equine athletes. HISA will address these problems head-on while helping to enhance the public’s interest in this very important industry. For the safety of the horses and jockeys, and for the sport of horseracing itself, American horseracing has been in dire need of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act that officially took effect on Friday, July 1, 2022.
In order to create these uniform performance and safety standards for the sport of horseracing, the HISA created the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which is a private, independent, self-regulatory, nonprofit organization. It will not be funded by the federal government – the horseracing industry will pay the funds necessary for the establishment and administration of the Authority. The Authority is tasked with developing and implementing both a horseracing anti-doping and medication control program and a racetrack safety program.
The Authority is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of nine members. Five of those members are independent of the industry, and four members are experts from the following sectors of the industry: owners and breeders, trainers, racetracks, veterinarians, State racing commissions, and jockeys. To assist with the development of these programs, the Board established an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack safety standing committee, both controlled by independent members outside the industry. All independent members of the Board and standing committees will be subject to strict conflict-of-interest standards.
The law requires the Authority to create a set of uniform anti-doping rules, including lists of prohibited substances and methods, protocols around the administration of permitted substances, and laboratory testing accreditation and protocols. These permitted and prohibited substances and practices will be developed after taking into consideration international anti-doping standards and veterinarian ethical standards, along with consulting racing industry representatives and the public. The new nationwide rules replace the current patchwork of regulatory systems that govern horseracing’s 38 separate racing jurisdictions.
To protect the health and safety of racehorses and jockeys, the law requires the Authority to create a racetrack safety program, consisting of a uniform set of training and racing safety standards and protocols. Those standards include racetrack design and maintenance, oversight of human and equine injury reporting and prevention, and the procedures for undertaking investigations at racetrack and non-racetrack facilities related to safety violations. The Authority will also create an accreditation program to ensure that racetracks comply with these safety procedures, and in order to continue gather information on racetrack safety, the Authority will establish a nationwide database of racehorse safety, performance, health, and injury information within one year of the establishment of the program.
Animal Wellness Action, along with The Jockey Club, worked with key lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to amend the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act of 2020, modifying a provision in the original law that a federal appellate court declared unconstitutional in November and which put the national ban on race-day doping of Thoroughbreds in jeopardy. Performance-enhancing drugs put the animals at risk of breakdowns and other injuries and make the entire industry suspect.118th Congress (2023)
Horseracing operates under an outdated, state-based, Balkanized patchwork of medication rules that creates confusion and risk for owners and trainers and contains gaps in rules and enforcement. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would greatly improve regulatory standards, ban the use of all medications on race day, and level the playing field for everyone invested in horseracing.
The measure created a new non-governmental agency as the independent organization that would oversee and administer all drug testing in U.S. horseracing, the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). The measure also requires racing authorities and racetracks to report all horse deaths and injuries to the Federal Trade Commission to be displayed in a public federal database, and created a uniform national standard for many rules and regulations in American horse racing.
The original intent of the legislation conveyed in nearly 1,000 meetings on Capitol Hill was to have the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) oversee the drug testing and enforcement under the banner of HISA, but the HISA ceased negotiations with USADA in late 2021, and instead chose to select the lessor-known Drug Free Sport International to oversee testing instead.
In light of that circumstance, and with other issues already arising with implementation of the new law, Animal Wellness Action, and its sister organizations the Animal Wellness Foundation, and Center for a Humane Economy, decided to create this website to hold the new HISA accountable.117th Congress (2021-2022)
By early 2019, Animal Wellness Action, which was formed in mid-2018, committed to making H.R. 1754, now the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (the Act), one of its top priorities for the 116th Congress. Working with the industry leaders of reform efforts, The Jockey Club, Water, Hay, Oats Alliance, The Stronach Group that owns and operates The Preakness Stakes, Pimlico, and Laurel Park in Maryland, and others, we believed the timing was ripe, and under the right circumstances, we could permanently end drugging in the sport.
AWA executive director Marty Irby testified in support of the bill before the House Committee hearing held in January of 2020 alongside Hall of Fame jockey, Chris McCarron, and other leaders in this fight. The hearing went overwhelmingly well in support of the bill. Just six weeks later, the U.S. Dept. of Justice indicted 27 trainers and veterinarians caught illegally importing drugs to juice up horses, and more endorsements for the measure, including Bob Baffert and the Jockey’s Guild followed.
And in September of 2020, the House finally passed the bill by a voice vote. With 261 cosponsors; and support from a broad base of industry players, including the New York Racing Association and The Belmont Stakes; Churchill Downs and The Kentucky Derby; and every major animal protection group in the U.S. – the legislation was signed into law in December of 2020 by President Donald J. Trump, and took effect on July 1, 2022.116th (2019-2021)
In the 115th Congress, modifications to the bill expanded on eliminating doping and brought more equine groups into the fold. A full Congressional hearing was held before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on H.R. 2651, the Horseracing Integrity Act that ultimately garnered 131 cosponsors. But the hearing didn’t play out as planned, and without a Senate companion measure, the bill died at the end of 2018.115th Congress (2017-2019)
When we first started working to pass federal anti-doping legislation in the 114th Congress, the Congressional Horse Caucus led a hearing that brought light to the issue, and some progress was made with notable figures including Bobby Flay speaking in support of the measure. By the close of 2016 the bill had made progress, and the major players in American horseracing were starting to pay attention to legislation gathering momentum with 21 House cosponsors.114th Congress (2015-2017)