Penn National announces anti-horse slaughter policy

Seeking to prevent retired racehorses from ending up on dinner plates overseas, North America's largest racetrack operator announced Monday that it will revoke stall privileges for any owner or trainer who knowingly sells a horse for slaughter.

Christopher McErlean, vice president of racing for Penn National Gaming Inc., said the policy will take effect immediately and that the company may also bar individuals entirely from racing at any of the five tracks it owns.

“Penn National Gaming has a long-term commitment to the humane treatment of animals and is opposed to the slaughter of racehorses,” said McErlean. “We need horsemen to become educated and use best efforts and practices in how they manage their equine charges and to act in a responsible way when those athletes no longer are able to race."

McErlean went on to say that the company will assist horsemen’s organizations in promoting and advertising available options for retired thoroughbreds.

Philadelphia Park race track  - the focus of a story I wrote for the Inquirer last week - has had a similar policy in place for the past year.

While it is legal to sell horses for slaughter, there are currently no horse slaughter houses in operation in the United States. Instead, horses are trucked by brokers from auctions to plants in Canada and Mexico. Many unwanted horses from this region - including untold numbers of ex-racehorses and Amish buggy and plow horses - are sold to "kill buyers" at New Holland livestock auction in Lancaster every week and shipped to a slaughter plant in Quebec.

While many in the horse industry support slaughter as an alternative to the fate of unwanted horses who are abandoned or otherwise suffer from neglect and abuse, anti-slaughter advocates are focusing on federal legislation, now under consideration in Congress, that would ban the sale of U.S. horses for slaughter.

Here's the Penn National policy statement: 

 “Any horsemen stabled at a Penn National Gaming, Inc. owned or operated horse racing facility who knowingly, or without conducting proper due diligence, sells a horse for slaughter, directly or indirectly, will have his or her stalls revoked and may, in addition, be barred from all of our racing properties. Penn National Gaming, Inc. requires that horsemen participating at the Company’s racetracks conduct proper due diligence on those buying horses and encourages horsemen participating at Penn National facilities and industry-wide to support rescue and adoption efforts and to seek humane means of dealing with horses unable to continue racing.”

The policy will take immediate effect at Penn National Gaming’s five wholly owned and operated horse racing facilities – Black Gold Casino at Zia Park (Hobbs, NM), Charles Town Races and Slots (Charles Town, WV), Hollywood Casino, Hotel and Raceway (Bangor, ME), Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course (Grantville, PA) and Raceway Park (Toledo, OH.) Penn National Gaming also owns Sanford Orlando Kennel Club in Longwood, FL and recently announced plans to acquire Beulah Park in Grove City, OH.