ARCADIA (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is forming a task force to investigate the deaths of nearly two-dozen horses at the Santa Anita Racetrack in recent months.
Authorities last month said the 23rd horse since late December was euthanized at the popular race track following a month-long closure.
In a statement issued Tuesday, L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey stated the task force would "evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park."
Those assigned to investigate will include "experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers with varied expertise," Lacey stated.
The announcement follows months of heightened scrutiny, including a demand from animal rights advocates PETA urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to intervene.
In the latest incident, the horses were making a turn from grass to dirt when the horse, named Arms Runner, went down. A second horse, La Sardane, tripped over Arms Runner. But the second horse was not hurt. Arms Runner, a 5-year-old gelding, had to be euthanized. The euthanization followed a month-long closure, during which new regulations were put in place and the track was examined for faults. None were found during that time.
Santa Anita Park addressed Arms Runner's death in a statement issued March 31, reading in part: "While this incident happened during competition on a track that has been deemed by independent experts to be safe – it speaks to the larger issue of doing all that we can to better understand and prevent such catastrophic injuries, not only at Santa Anita , but throughout California and across the country. International Federation of Horseracing Authorities standards were unanimously adopted by the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday. We urge other racing venues in California to adopt the IFHA standards immediately. Together we can create higher standards and protocols across the board at all California racing and training venues."
Officials stated the park was overhauling its medication policy and would ensure veterinary oversight and the enhancement of safety protocols.
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