The use of drugs in thoroughbred horses by the racing industry is widespread and deadly. Trainers and veterinarians frequently give horses legal drugs to mask the pain from stress or injury in order to keep them on the track when they should be resting, not racing. A powerful diuretic called Lasix (or Salix) is widely used, supposedly to stop horses’ lungs from bleeding—even if the horses aren’t prone to bleeding—because horses on this drug run faster and have a greater weight advantage (because of increased urine production) over other horses. Lasix also has the ability to mask the presence of other—often illegal—drugs by “flushing out” the system. Lasix is banned in most countries on race day, but more than 90 percent of thoroughbreds in the U.S. are given the drug just hours before a race.
In 2008, the overwhelming consensus at a congressional hearing on horseracing, for which PETA supplied testimony, was that drugs were at the root of many of the animal welfare issues in the racing industry. Horses are given drugs to make them run and turn a profit. The Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1733) would prohibit the use of performance-enhancing drugs in racing horses and would require the first-place winner and one other randomly chosen horse to be tested for drugs at all races.