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KPIX 5 Reports On Horse Auctions Brings Changes To Golden Gate Fields

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- A KPIX 5 investigation into the dark side of the horse racing industry has led to results. Following our series of reports, Golden Gate Fields has launched a landmark new program to make sure retired racehorses avoid an all too common fate: ending up on someone's dinner plate.

For Joe Morris it was a rude awakening. "We want them treated right before they race, while they race and after they race," he said. The former general manager of Golden Gate Fields had come to visit "Come Catch Karen", a racehorse from his track that could have ended up on someone's dinner table.

She is one of the six race horses that we discovered at local auctions. Auctions are the beginning of the end for many horses. It's where horse traders known as "killer buyers" pay pennies on the dollar to truck them off to slaughter.

Horse Auction
A horse being put up for auction. (CBS)

That is not supposed to happen to horses from Golden Gate Fields. When KPIX 5 talked to Morris a few months ago he told us about the track's no-slaughter policy, he said "It's something we are adamant on."

Now Morris admits: "Obviously there are still horses getting out and around that."

After we showed him what was really happening to some of his horses, Morris took action. The policy at the track clearly was not enough, so he hired an enforcer.

Liz Morey is the racetrack's new Director of Thoroughbred Aftercare. Her job: Cataloging every horse about to retire from racing. "So that 5 years from now we still have information about when the horse retired, why they retired, and that is the information we can share with rescues down the road," she said.

Morey said trainers and owners at Golden Gate Fields now know they are being watched, and can't just give their thoroughbreds away to just anyone. "There are people that will bring their children, say the horse is for their kids, and they are just fishing for horses," she said.

Since late April, Morey has registered 84 horses leaving the track. She lists them all on a database that adoption groups can access, and many horses end up in new homes. "I hope that over the next year we will be involved with every single horse," she said.

Morris hopes so too. "We thank you for that, because you have helped us get the spotlight on this, and this is a perfect example of a success story, making sure we do what's right for the horse," he said.

As KPIX 5 reported previously, California law forbids selling horses for slaughter. But state officials admit they don't have the money to monitor horse auctions, so no one is actually enforcing the law.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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