Safeguarding thoroughbred welfare: new rule introduced by Racing Victoria

8 April 2024 Written by VRC

The racing industry’s self-imposed responsibility for thoroughbreds before, during and after racing has received a boost with a new local rule in Victoria that prohibits live thoroughbred racehorses being sent to knackeries and abattoirs.

Considered a formality by many in the industry, this new rule nevertheless puts a clear line in the sand regarding expectations for the management of our equine athletes following their racing career and builds on the many pathways that exist for retired racehorses. It also raises a philosophical point around how racehorses are perceived, with the new rule cementing their status as athletes and companions, as opposed to farm animals.

The Racing Victoria (RV) Board gave its stamp of approval to the introduction of the new Local Rule of Racing (LR 94C) in January and it came into effect as of 1 February 2024. In considering the rule, RV’s equine welfare team undertook extensive consultation with industry stakeholders and relevant service providers.

RV’s equine welfare strategic outlook has been instrumental in shaping the landscape of post-racing transition programs in Victoria.

These initiatives, such as the Acknowledged Retrainer Program and Post-racing Transition Pathway Guide, aim to facilitate smooth transitions for retired racehorses into second careers. Other projects include: the RESET Program; Acknowledged Retirement Farms Program; Retired Thoroughbred Companion Program; and Clerk of Course Subsidy Program.

For cases where euthanasia is deemed the most humane option due to chronic injury or illness, or dangerous behaviour, LR 94C offers owners access to RV’s Onsite Humane Euthanasia Program (OHEP). This program, established in March 2021, enables eligible thoroughbreds to be euthanised onsite, ensuring a dignified end in a familiar environment.

Additionally, thoroughbreds nominated for OHEP undergo thorough assessment by RV to explore alternative options available through its post-racing transition programs.

It is only with these safeguards in place that RV can confidently meet community expectations that thoroughbreds are treated with respect throughout their entire lives.

Racing Victoria’s Chief Executive, Andrew Jones, highlighted the organisation’s commitment to fostering a sustainable post-racing framework.

“Our focus in the past five years has been on building a sustainable post-racing framework that provides alternate pathways for retiring thoroughbreds,” Mr Jones said.

“There is now a full range of programs for healthy retired racehorses. If humane euthanasia is the best welfare outcome, for example where a horse has a chronic injury or disease with negligible prospects or exhibits dangerous behaviours, this can be done humanely onsite rather than at a knackery.”

Racing New South Wales has implemented a similar local rule for all racehorses within its jurisdiction.

Find out more regarding the new rule introduced by Racing Victoria.