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March 20, 2018

MHC testimony on HB 1232 - Purse Dedication Account for Retired Racehorses

February 28, 2018

House Ways & Means Committee Maryland General Assembly Annapolis, Maryland
Delegate Anne R. Kaiser, Chair

Re: HB 1232 Purse Dedication Account for Retired Racehorses

Dear Chairman Kaiser and Members of the Committee:

The Maryland Horse Council (MHC) is a membership-based, umbrella trade association of the entire horse industry in Maryland. Our membership includes over 40 breed, interest and discipline associations, plus horse farms and stables, horse-related businesses, and horse-owners representing all facets of the Maryland equestrian community, from the owners of racehorses to the owners of trail horses or just beloved retired companion horses. As such, we represent over 30,000 Marylanders.

MHC has concerns regarding this bill that would mandate that funding from the horse racing purse account be allocated for Thoroughbred aftercare.

Maryland leads the nation in racehorse aftercare and second careers. The successful national program known as the Retired Racehorse Project (RRP) was founded in Maryland. RRP, along with its allies in the racing industry (including the Jockey Club and the racetracks) have created a system that engages the commercial, recreation, and nonprofit sectors of the horse industry to facilitate placement of these horses. RRP and its Thoroughbred Makeover have revitalized America’s pride in and love affair with the Thoroughbred, helping to ensure former race horses have active secondary careers and have a high consumer demand with plentiful options for loving homes.

Furthermore, we, the Maryland Horse Council are in the process of launching the Maryland Equine Transition Service (METS), a first-in-the-nation solution that will offer alternatives to horses of all breeds that might otherwise end up on trucks to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses. METS was recently awarded a $750,000 grant to create this national model. METS was created in part to get the non-racing part of the horse industry caught up with the racing side in caring for its most vulnerable horses.

The Maryland Horse Council does not currently support a state mandate on funding for Thoroughbred aftercare. Mandated funding would simply replace the voluntary funding that racing owners and trainers provide from the purse account today, and create tension in our industry when we have recently made great strides to work together.

Additionally, this bill would require that a quasi-state agency, Maryland Horse Industry Board, manage the fund. This requirement falls outside the mission and mandate of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, which was created by legislation to serve as a commodity board to promote the growth of the horse industry, and would place unnecessary strains on the resources of this agency.

We appreciate the well-meaning intentions behind this bill, but the Maryland Horse Council respectfully opposes HB 1232.

Thank you for your concern about the welfare of our magnificent animals.

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