When Government Regulates the Horse Industry…

In early 2020, breaking news from New York rocked the horse racing industry as a federal investigation led to the seizure of records and arrest of a large number of horse racing trainers and veterinarians. The news placed a magnifying glass over what’s already a very controversial sport with animal rights activists.

During that time, a bill was being introduced in the United States House of Representatives that had been tried, and failed, multiple times. This time, however, it was titled the “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act,” and it would gain the support of a political heavyweight, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) from Kentucky. By December, the bill had passed both the House and the Senate and was sent to then-President Donald Trump for his signature into law.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) was signed into law December 27, 2020, with the full effect of the passing taking place, presumably, July 1, 2022.

Photo courtesy AQHA Racing

What is HISA?

The act, which was passed through the United States Congress as part of a much larger, bipartisan bill, is meant to bring uniform national standards and regulations to Thoroughbred horse racing, in relation to anti-doping, medication control, and racetrack safety. This oversight is meant to increase safety at the racetracks, as well as transparency and efficiency to all states and racing jurisdictions.

The general overview of HISA says:

“This bill recognizes the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority for purposes of developing and implementing a horse racing anti-doping and medication control program and a racetrack safety program.

“The Authority will establish an anti-doping and medication control standing committee and a racetrack standing committee to provide guidance to the Authority on the development and maintenance of the programs.

“The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shall have oversight over the Authority. The Authority shall submit to the FTC any proposed rule, standard or procedure developed by the Authority to carry out the horse racing anti-doping and medication control program or the racetrack safety program. The Authority shall seek to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) or an entity equal in qualification under which the entity acts as the anti-doping and medication control enforcement agency under this bill…”

Prior to HISA, horse racing was regulated by individual states/commissions. While there is the Association for Racing Commissions International, which provides model rules for horse racing, each individual jurisdiction and commission can determine how they want to adopt and implement those rules.

Think of it this way: You own a double-registered Western Pleasure horse and want to show on both the Paint Horse and Quarter Horse circuits. However, say these two associations have different rules and standards for Western Pleasure, and the states where the shows you’ll attend are located have their own rules. It can get pretty confusing. Which is why there are national rulebooks for both the APHA and the AQHA, and their rules are very similar to encourage uniformity amongst the stock horse industry.

Click here to read more from the September/October 2021 issue of the Equine Chronicle.

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