New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing aims to prevent neglect by ensuring that thoroughbreds are retrained and suitably re-homed wherever possible. Suitable re-homing is more likely to happen when care is taken placing horses with responsible owners after retirement, when education is provided about thoroughbred welfare, and both the public and the racing industry recognise the early warning signals of neglect and feel empowered to notify NZTR, the Racing Integrity Board (RIB) or the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
Most often, horse neglect is identified and reported by members of the public, a veterinarian or the police. In early 2023, the responsibility for investigating equine welfare concerns transferred from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to MPI. Just like the SPCA, MPI officers have powers of inspection and prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
NZTR is responsive to cases where neglected thoroughbreds are discovered and help is required. In the past, NZTR has overseen the rehabilitation and re-homing of thoroughbreds, where veterinary advice was that, with proper care and treatment, the horses had a good chance of recovering to full health and an enjoyable future under new ownership.
Where a case of neglect or cruelty of a thoroughbred involves a licensed person or another ‘Accountable Person’, Part XIV of the Rules of Racing provides explicit powers to the Racing Integrity Board and NZTR to investigate and resolve the issue. These powers include the power to issue Thoroughbred Welfare Compliance Orders and Thoroughbred Welfare Possession Orders to ensure that immediate welfare improvements can be assured.
The RIB has an established relationship with SPCA and MPI, which includes liaison protocols for dealing with matters of animal neglect or cruelty if this involves licensed persons or registered horses. NZTR is developing a strong relationship with MPI (just as we previously held with the SPCA), to ensure prompt and open lines of communication and practical assistance where neglect or cruelty cases involve thoroughbreds, even if they have been long-retired from racing or breeding.
A welfare issue may occur when horses are sold or given away to unsuitable owners. Even though deregistration and re-homing to an approved home may be done in full compliance with New Zealand Thoroughbred notification rules, it is potentially the second or subsequent owner who may neglect or mistreat a horse. In this situation the horse and its unregistered owner are not subject to NZTR regulatory oversight.
Reporting the neglect of Thoroughbreds
- Amend the Rules of Racing to make it clear that any licensed or accountable people are subject to serious misconduct charges, possible fines and/or recovery of rehabilitation costs if they are proved to have neglected a horse
- Include rehabilitation guidelines for re-homing thoroughbreds including a duty of care for owners and trainers to best ensure good horse welfare outcomes
- Continue to support and encourage reporting of neglect to NZTR, the Racing Integrity Board (RIB) or Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). NZTR will follow-up reported cases to ensure the overriding welfare of the horse.