There are many lovers of horses and fans of horse racing in the Saratoga/Capital Region. But many of those who love the equine athletes, even those who work in the industry, don't realize that Albany Law School is a leader in the study of equine law, and the dissemination of information about the subject. Respected around the US, the Government Law Center at Albany Law School brings together some of racing's greatest minds – and hearts – at their annual Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law.
The Institute is divided into two days: the 2012 version of the Institute presented racing law (and lively dialogue thereabout) on Tuesday at the Gideon Putnam Hotel & Resort. (Day Two, today, is all about gaming in the Empire State.)
The average racing fan may think that a day full of attorneys talking about the finer points of law – even equine law – may be a sleeper. Not so: the racing side of the Institute brought in many distinguished, respected equine attorneys along with equally-admired trainers, owners and industry professionals of various stripes.
With so many great thinkers and outspoken advocates for The Horse in one room, the air was electric. While many differed on some points – euthanization vs. slaughter, if unavoidable; medications and regulation thereof – all agreed on one thing: that The Horse is valuable for so many reasons, but chief among that is that, if you love a horse – If you own a horse – you are responsible for that horse for the rest of its natural life.
The sessions were all fascinating, even to mere writers with no law education or experience: the topics ranged from:
* Quality of Life: How to Recognize Inhumane Treatment of Horses and the Legal Standard
* New York State Task Force on Retired Race Horses Report
* Certification and Inspection of Breeding Farms and Sanctuaries/Rescue Centers
* Anti-Slaughter and Retirement Programs at Race Tracks: Do They Work and Are They Legal
* Triage: A Logical Placement Approach
* Horse Ownership Responsibilities
* Safety on the Race Track – On-Track Injury Report
Each of these topics offered their own hot buttons, which led to lively dialogue among panelists and questions from Institute attendees. Each topic was relevant to the present, and the present – and urgent – need for all lovers of horses to work together to assure that, in this case, race horses do not end up in killpens at horse auctions such as New Holland, thence to a slaughterhouse in Mexico or Canada.
The racing day at the Saratoga Institute could in theory be stretched to become two or three days – there are so many things to discuss, round-table style, by many knowledgeable and – again – compassionate thinkers.
While the uninitiated might observe that nothing was accomplished, really, during the first day of the Saratoga Institute – nothing could be farther from the truth. The dialogue which began on Tuesday will continue – with the appropriate urgency – as these professionals continue to preach, harangue, nibble at legislators and regulatory agencies.
The racing industry, in particular, is a community – but a community in need of a leader. Racing, unlike other major sports, has no Commission or Commissioner. Until this is achieved, those who work in the sport will continue to advocate as individuals, and as smaller organizations. But the dialogue has, indeed, begun, the gauntlet thrown down.
With a clarion call the racing industry has declared that The Horse must be protected, nurtured, and retired lovingly – hopefully to a second career. The industry is of one mind about one thing: that the purchase of a horse should indicate willingness to assume responsibility for that horse for the rest of its life. If that means finding a second career for the horse, so be it. But however the horse is pensioned, a retirement plan must be made for every horse that is Made in the USA. Taking care of our own is, after all, the American way of doing things.
The Albany Law School Saratoga Institute of Racing and Gaming Law brought together those leaders who will continue the dialogue, will work together and continue to promote the humane care of horses. This, as was said more than once, is the least that is owed to such the loyal, loving, dedicated horse, who gives so much of her/himself, both on and off the track.
Marion Altieri is a writer for Saratoga Wire. She has written about horses and the horse industry for many years
Photo Credit: NYRA
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