Racehorse tied in stall.

Horses abandoned in California after being used for illegal horse racing

Last weekend our horse racing investigators uncovered a horrible situation. They were following a lead about illegal horse racing in California.

Illegal horse racing has been previously reported in California and Texas.

When our investigators got to the reported location the people had moved on but had left 9 racehorses behind.

The Thoroughbreds had been nailed into makeshift stalls. They clearly had not been fed or watered for some time and were knee deep in filthy straw that stunk of old urine and feces. One had a broken leg and kept crying out.

In a short time we had boots on the ground to help free these horses. But before we could take a single step to help them, we were told we had to wait.

We had called the Sheriff’s Department. They did not want to come out but said they would, and warned us not to touch the horses until they got there. How heart rending to have to wait to tend to these poor abandoned souls. It was hours before they arrived. Then they said there was nothing they could do. They did however confirm that this was a location known for unlicensed, illegal horse racing.

These horses have lip tattoos we told them and we can trace their owners and trainers.

That won’t do you any good they told us. They can say these horses were stolen and used out here. We asked them if they had any open cases for stolen horses matching the descriptions of any of these racehorses. One of the officers just glared and did not answer while the other looked down at the ground. And then they started to leave.

We asked if we could now tend to the horses. One of them just waved his arms and shrugged and said I can’t tell you what or not what to do. But everybody knows you shouldn’t take what doesn’t belong to you, he answered. Then he and his deputy got in their cars and drove off.

In the meantime one of our volunteers had been on the phone for hours with media outlets. Not one was interested in these poor horses, where they came from, why they were there or what was going to happen to them.

We notified law enforcement and the media so we could get the situation documented. We didn’t want it to be our word against anyone else’s. And we thought it might not only help these horses but also others.

Supplies finally arrived, as well as transport. While staff were arranging this others were busy on the phones finding temporary boarding for the horses and rounding up veterinarians.

At long last, we were ready to move.

One of the Sheriff’s deputies made an interesting comment to our investigator while he was busy videoing the scene.

“Not much point doing that. It didn’t help Peta none with all the stuff they got. What you’re doing is going to do nothing but get you folks in lots of trouble. Better you had just shot those horses in the head and moved on. Oh, and better watch your own backs that somebody don’t do it to you. There is big money gambling going on out here and they don’t like being interfered with.”

Well, we didn’t shoot these horses in the head. All of the horses we rescued are safe and sound at locations known only to a handful of people – but one of them – the one we called Billy.

Billy is the one who had a broken leg. Billy was euthanized when it was discovered upon proper examination that the bone was shattered . Naturally, the veterinarian wanted to spare Billy any further suffering. What a gut wrenching decision to make.

One of our volunteers is a lawyer and she is advising us on how to proceed. We have now put everything we have into the hands of federal investigators.

We are tracing the previous owners of theses horses, who we are told probably raced them at licensed racecourses. When they didn’t want them anymore the owners decided to sell these horses on to people conducting illegal races. They can get a better price that what the meat man will pay for them. Plus the horses are already trained to race.

The earliest we heard of what mostly reporters call “clandestine racing” was a case reported in 2010 in California.

A group of local men were charged with animal cruelty and illegal gambling for operating a clandestine horse-racing circuit in San Joaquin County that involved doping horses with methamphetamine and cocaine, according to court papers.

Local men have also been busted for illegal horse racing and illicit gambling in Texas. The most recent case to our knowledge was in 2013.

We are not a rescue. We do not have any property or facilities where we take in horses.

Working as horse industry watchdogs we come across cases where horses need rescuing and we do everything in our power to save them.

We are so grateful for the donations you give us throughout the year and when we ask you for additional help. We can’t and don’t expect to do it by ourselves.

Thank you.


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5 thoughts on “Horses abandoned in California after being used for illegal horse racing”

  1. It doesn’t just happen at illegal tracks out west. When I volunteered for CANTER-Ohio, we would go from stall to stall to stall at the end of the meet to make sure no horses were abandoned. Some of the stalls were nailed shut but we would make sure we opened each door and looked inside. People continue to wonder why I despise racing more with each passing day. The answer is really quite easy if you just use your brain.


  2. In 2012 New Mexico sort of cracked down on a couple of illegal bush tracks. Nothing since then. Again, Mexicans – legal and illegal – were the organizers and primary participants in the “big bust” in Los Lunas, the home of Dennis Chavez’ Southwest Livestock. I often wonder if he ran/runs broken-down-but-still-walking bush track horses through his auction. It would be easy to do. Attending vets allow him to fill out the paperwork without looking at the horses, and the NM Livestock Board inspectors accept that paperwork without question.


    And then there are the Indian tribes, which are essentially untouchable. Note that this article is primarily about tax money the state is losing.



  3. Our politicians (wherever in the world) are supposed to be respecting the wishes of the people – we vote for them as representatives of we, the people, and it is their duty/obligation to respect our views/opinions.
    This is what our politicians are supposed to be doing but more and more they do not seem to respect our wishes/listen to us and do what they damn well like. Corruption is rife in politics and this is totally unacceptable.


  4. I have read articles about this before but the law does nothing about it. Its generally run by Mexicans a lot of them illegal. Finding only 9 horses this organization might be able to place them in rescues. But the police in Calif are told not to bother the illegals no matter what they are caught doing because of the crazy governor has climbed into bed with Mexico and agrees with everything they tell him to do. From drivers license for illegals to signing them up to vote in the local elections the state is gone down the tubes.


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