Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Strengthen Horse Safety and Race Track Accountability, Appoints New CHRB Member

Governor Newsom signs SB 469, which provides the California Horse Racing Board the authority to suspend a race meet license when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses or riders 

Governor calls on California race tracks to adopt additional review processes similar to those used at Santa Anita earlier this month

Governor also announces the appointment of former director of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health, Gregory Ferraro, to the California Horse Racing Board

SACRAMENTO – In a move to improve horse safety and bring a greater level of transparency and accountability to race tracks, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed SB 469 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and announced the appointment of seasoned veterinarian Gregory Ferraro to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). SB 469 would allow the CHRB to suspend horse racing licenses when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.

The bill signing comes weeks after Governor Newsom directed CHRB to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park to provide additional examination and determine if an individual horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita Park since this new review process was established earlier this month.

“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” said Governor Newsom. “I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials. I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita. This model can save horses’ lives.”

Currently, short of an allegation of an actual rule violation, the CHRB is limited in its ability to take action against a licensee to limit, place conditions on or suspend a racing license. SB 469 will update the law to allow the CHRB to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk.

“Putting the safety of horses first is paramount,” said Senator Dodd, the author of SB 469. “I appreciate Gov. Newsom’s partnership and swift action in supporting this commonsense measure to allow the Horse Racing Board to halt racing when dangerous conditions exist.”

After reports about the increasing number of horse deaths at California race tracks, Governor Newsom announced new regulatory actions through the CHRB and called for additional oversight measures, including the creation of a review group at Santa Anita Park during the final two weekends of race meets in June. This horse safety review group examined the past performances of all the horses, including any history on the Veterinarian’s List and Steward’s List, as well as any medical history CHRB was aware of, and physical observations of the horse when practicable. The panel then advised Santa Anita management if certain horses were considered high-risk. The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, agreed to deny the entry of any such horses and treat the review group’s recommendation as the final word. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita under this process.

The Governor’s new appointee to the CHRB, Gregory Ferraro, 73, of San Francisco, was the director of the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health from 1997 to 2014. Ferraro was owner and chief executive officer of Gregory L. Ferraro DVM, LLC from 1972 to 1997. He earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Ferraro is registered without a party preference.