Finale Foal Canada. Google image / MSN Canada.

Horses put down in Canada as racing industry declines

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What a tragic state of affairs in Canada.

Finale Foal Canada. Google image / MSN Canada.
Baby foal Finale gets some help standing about a half hour after his birth. Finale’s career, and quite possibly his life, may be over before either really begins. Google image / MSN Canada.

The impact of the anticipated termination by the Ontario government in 2013 of a program that sent $345-million from slot-machine revenues to race tracks in 2011 is being felt in 2012. Already three of 17 race tracks have closed.

Ontario is throwing somewhat of a lifeline to the horse racing industry, offering $50 million over a three-year period. The Horse Racing Transition (HRT) panel created by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs responded that the amount is not enough to help the industry survive. The Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association asked for $210 million.

This is devastating news for the industry, particularly those whose livelihoods depend on it. What about the horses?

“The whole scene is just devastating to breeders,” said Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer Roger Attfield, winner of a record-tying eight Queen’s Plates, and last fall a Breeders’ Cup race in Louisville. “People don’t know whether to breed their mares again, and people who have real estate don’t know what it’s going to be worth.” — Globe and Mail

It is predicted that Thoroughbred racing is likely to survive, but Standardbred racing will be hard hit and may not.

We covered this issue earlier reporting that foals were being euthanized at birth. Broodmares are now going the same way.

BEVERLEY SMITH and KAREN HOWLETT writing for the Globe and Mail report:

Veterinarian and breeder Garth Henry is planning to inject a humane overdose of a barbiturate – tentobarbitol – into the jugular veins of five of his nine broodmares. His mares – “my girls,” he calls them – range in age from 14 to 20 and could live longer than 30 years. The drug will arrest their heartbeats in two minutes or less.

Four of these mares gave birth to colts and fillies this year and are capable of breeding for several more years. The fifth, Plus Package, is 20, and because of her successful track career and breeding career, Henry had planned to give her a home for life. But now, Henry can’t justify the cost of upkeep on his farm in Russell, Ont., because the market for their foals is drying up.

“They wouldn’t be worth hauling to the sale,” he said. “And they’ll just be purchased most likely by guys sending them to the slaughter anyway. And it’s just not in me to do that.”

Source: The Globe and Mail

This is an-depth report. Anyone requiring facts and figures on the Ontario Government’s elimination of the Slots-at-Racetracks program will find a wealth of information in this article.


Thousands of racehorses face slaughter: Not so fast Canada; Tuesday’s Horse; Sept. 8, 2012

Canada: Cancellation of funding program could mean 13,000 dead horses; Tuesday’s Horse; Aug. 31, 2012

Foals euthanized in Canada as provincial funding of harness racing ends; Tuesday’s Horse; Apr. 27, 2012

9 thoughts on “Horses put down in Canada as racing industry declines”

  1. Very very sad..that anyone would put down a horse that has earned them money, clearly the right thing to do FIRST, is try and find those mares homes, and if not and you have explored all avenues and possibilities and you truly believe there is no way you can keep the horse or horses, then humane euthanization is the best way to go, but I really think these hasty decisions are going to be regretted down the road because you never know they may get the funding they need to survive, and so putting them down before you actually KNOW what is going to happen is wrong in my eyes.


  2. This guy is a VET and surely must know about the numbers of horses being slaughtered each day in canada due to overpopulation. He is a vet and a breeder, and he should know better. I am grateful that he’s not shipping them to the plant, but he is clearly a contributor to the overpopulation problem and he should know better.


  3. How sad the situation. TB Friends has been going through a similar situation in CA with tracks closed and breeding operations shut down and NO homes for older broodmares at all. I’d rather see them put down by owners than go to auction where thousands of them will end up bought by kill buyers. If you are truly disgusted by the breeder’s actions then contact him and offer to give one of more of his mares a home.


  4. It certainly is a ‘sad’ situation….however what strikes me in this story is this guy is a VET who I assume owns his own ‘property’? He has to kill his 20 yr old mare & others, the ones that produced foal after foal, never mind what they won at the track, instead of giving them a ‘retirement’ home. Yes, there will be some that truly can not afford to keep them & euthansia by a vet instead of shipping is the RIGHT thing to do. BUT I’m not buying how broke this person is….the mentality is if you don’t produce $$ your down the road. IMO


    1. I understand your concerns that an effort to find homes should be made prior to euthanasia, but realistically, if you have ever had to find homes with contracts to assure safety of the horse’s future, you have no idea how many aged T-bred mares are out there.


  5. Garth Henry is to be applauded for making the right, although very difficult decision to euthanize the horses under his care, not get a fast buck in exchange for the suffering endured in the slaughter process. If only more horse owners, “who cannot bear to euthanize them,” and cop out by sending them to an uncertain and usually horrible end, could think about their horses, and not just themselves.


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