Up to 13,000 horses could be euthanized in Ontario, report says

Prospective horse buyers are on edge following the release of a report suggesting that up to 13,000 thoroughbreds could be euthanized by early 2013 should Ontario’s troubled horse-racing industry collapse.

An industry insider says a reluctance to invest was palpable when an auction of 387 Ontario-bred thoroughbreds began Monday at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack.

“There’s no doubt that people are very leery of investing in this climate right now,” said Glenn Sikura, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

Sikura told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday that sales were down an average of 36 per cent on the first night of the auction.

He surmised that investors may be spooked by a report issued late last month by a government panel indicating that 7,500 to 13,000 could be euthanized by early 2013 as a result of downsizing in the horse racing and breeding industry.

The report, released by the Horse Racing Industry Transition Panel, suggests ways the industry can adjust to the shutdown of a profitable government revenue sharing program with the province’s racetracks: SARP, or the Slots at Racetracks Program.

While the report says it would be a “mistake” to reinstate SARP — described as having serious flaws — it also warns that “without slots revenue or a new revenue stream, the horse racing industry in Ontario will cease to exist.”

The consequences are expected to be felt by the lifeblood of the industry, the horses.

If there are no tracks for Ontario’s horses to compete on, Sikura said they may not have anywhere else to go. Though some could become companion animals or saddle horses, there may not be enough of a demand to accommodate such a massive influx of horses.

“The horse industry’s done a very good job of placing horses with other ways of competing … but there’s just not enough homes,” he said.

In an interview with CTV Toronto, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty stressed that the August report is provisional and that more solutions will be presented in a final report.

“We’re concerned about some of the stories we’ve heard about mass euthanasia of horses. That is not something we intend to support, obviously,” he said Monday.

He said Ontario must find a better way to transition out of the Slots at Racetrack Program.

“We’re listening very intently. But at the end of the day, we’ve also made a decision: We’ve got to put schools and healthcare ahead of subsidizing horse racing in Ontario,” McGuinty said.

Source: CTV News