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Most people would not associate horse racing with horse abuse and exploitation. I certainly didn't until I did a few hours of reading on the "true" behind-the-racetrack story.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS Fact Sheet, May 1989) race horses used in pari-mutuel gambling are subjected to a variety of abuses, including blatant cruelties, such as vicious beatings and kickings; 2-year-old racing, which does not allow the horses to mature properly; excessive racing, which does not permit horses to recover from injuries; drug abuse, which involves the injection of race horses with painkilling drugs to enable the horses to race injured and lame; foul-weather racing, which demands that horses race in extreme hot and cold temperatures.Prior to reading this information from HSUS, I had always imagined that all horse owners treasured and protected their valuable race horses, but I now understand that this is not always the case and that, in fact, some owners only value their horses as long as the race horses are racing, winning and earning money. And where do race horses go after they stop winning? Out to pasture? Wrong. Most race horses who do not die of injuries on the track are auctioned off to slaughterhouses that sell horse steaks to Europe and Japan.

Surprised? I was, but maybe you are ahead of me and already knew about horseburgers. Appalled at the abuse? I am, but maybe some do not care much about animals and their alleged suffering and just want to have fun betting at the track. Maybe they just like a good, "honest" game of chance and don't want to hear all this whining about horse abuse.

Well, then listen carefully to just one more fact about pari-mutuel gambling: It is almost impossible to know for certain that the horse on which you are wagering your hard-earned money is racing on its own steam and not a syringe full of illegal drugs like cocaine or amphetamines.

Illegal drugs in the ponies? They can't get away with that. Sorry, but they can. Legal drugs such as phenylbutazone and furosemide, which reduce or eliminate pain and permit lame or lung-injured horses to continue to race, mask the presence of illegal drugs.

Legal drugs can mask the presence of illegal drugs so well that even the state regulatory agencies assigned to make certain that people are not cheated cannot ensure they are betting on a fair race.

Bonnie Shaw

Board member

Wasatch Humane