Jockey Club Must Do More To End Horse Abuse

By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

I blogged earlier this week about New York Times reports on allegations of animal cruelty against Thoroughbred breeder Ernie Paragallo. He's now in custody after a police raid on his farm yesterday:

The state police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took over the farm of the prominent New York thoroughbred breeder and owner Ernie Paragallo on Wednesday, saying he had neglected more than 170 horses under his care. Since 1996, Ernie Paragallo's family-owned Paraneck Stable has been among the nation's leading racing outfits.

Multiple charges of animal cruelty are pending against Paragallo in Greene County; each count carries a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

There is no punishment severe enough for anyone guilty of the kind of cruelty Paragallo allegedly inflicted on his hundreds of animals. One person quoted by the Times described some of Paragallo's horses as "bags of bones" and "walking hides." Many of the horses he bred were sent off to slaughter auctions and rescued by animal rights groups.

Here's how the Jockey Club reacted:

The Jockey Club released a statement Wednesday saying that it supported the investigations and that it would not recognize any of Paragallo's horses if he is found guilty of animal cruelty, which would effectively end his career as a thoroughbred owner and breeder.

The Jockey Club needs to do more--lots more. It needs to carefully observe the treatment of horses by all its licensed breeders and severely limit the number of horses breeders can bring into the world each year. If there were fewer horses bred, fewer of them would end up starved, neglected, or abandoned. Prices for horses would rise and none would be within the price range of the killer buyers, who typically get them at auction for about $1 per pound.

And it's not just the Jockey Club. All breed associations should severely limit breeding by refusing to issue papers for more than a small number of horses each year. An unregistered horse cannot sell for nearly the amount brought by the sale of a papered or registered horse. If breeders cannot make money breeding, they won't do it.

In addition, we should all praise the New York Times for keeping on this story, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for going after Paragallo, the rescue groups for taking in and saving these horses, including Equine Rescue Resource and Another Chance 4 Horses, based in Pennsylvania. Of course, there's always the Humane Society of the United States, which lobbies Congress and state legislatures to pass humane animal treatment laws.

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By Bonnie Erbe