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Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths

Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths
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An advocacy group to prevent cruelty to animals is headed to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to pass legislation to protect racehorses.

Animal Wellness Action is pressing Congress on the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would establish a national standard for medication use on racehorses and create a committee, managed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, to enforce it and test the horses. It would be the same model the Olympics have for athletes and the first of its kind for nonhumans. 

The new push comes after the death of a horse, Mongolian Groom, at the Breeders’ Cup in California on Saturday. The horse, which injured his leg and was euthanized, was the seventh to die on that track since September.

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“It’s definitely something that is much more on the radar today than it was a week ago. I think everybody has expressed that,” Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby told The Hill after his meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

“People were far more focused on the recent incident and what they’ve seen from the public and the outcry.” 

The bill is sponsored by Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandJon Stewart accuses VA of being 'an obstacle' to burn pits medical care Family policy that could appeal to the right and the left 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet MORE (D-N.Y.). and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyArizona state senator announces bid for Kirkpatrick's seat Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick says she won't seek reelection Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain MORE (R-Ariz.) and by Reps. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoUnleashing an American-led clean energy economy to reach net-zero emissions Lawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine MORE (D-N.Y.) and Andy BarrAndy BarrFed to form committee focused on climate risks to financial system Financial regulators home in on climate risks House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Ky.). It currently has 196 co-sponsors in the House.

Animal Wellness Action got 2020 hopeful Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerCongressional Black Caucus members post selfie celebrating first WH visit in four years Black lawmakers press Biden on agenda at White House meeting The first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally MORE (D-N.J.) and Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersHillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Bipartisan lawmakers signal support for Biden cybersecurity picks The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Let's make a deal on infrastructure, taxes MORE (D-Mich.) to sign on as well, bringing it to six co-sponsors in the Senate.

“Good to have a current presidential candidate. Hopefully the rest of the candidates will fall in line and come on and co-sponsor,” Irby said.

Irby's group is part of the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity, which will return to Capitol Hill next week to lobby the House when it returns from recess.

“A dozen or more I think will come on board pretty quickly,” Irby said. “I think we’ll get to 218 pretty quickly, maybe by the end of next week.” 

Irby predicted there will be a hearing in the House early next year, but the bill faces an uphill battle this Congress in the Senate.

The Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and The Stronach Group are supporting the bill through the Coalition for Horse Racing Integrity. But Churchill Downs, which hosts the Kentucky Derby, is not in the coalition.

That's a significant obstacle for supporters of the bill. Churchill Downs is in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell seeks to end feud with Trump Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Colin Powell on Afghanistan: 'We've done all we can do' MORE (R-Ky.), who is essential to getting the bill through the upper chamber. McConnell has not taken a position on the bill.

Irby said a couple of members brought up the McConnell hurdle, adding it was “not near as many” as he expected. 

“We’ll still keep pressing along in both chambers,” Irby said.