It looks like HBO has some trouble on the track.
After two horses were injured and subsequently euthanized on the set of the cable channel’s horse racing show “Luck,” animal rights activists want answers.
The show, which stars Dustin Hoffman, premiered at the end of January, and some eagle-eyed viewers noticed that the credits in the pilot episode did not include the American Humane Association’s traditional stamp of approval that no animals were harmed during production.
PETA, who had protested the show before filming began, contacted HBO to get details, once it came to light that animals had been injured on set. “Perhaps if producers had considered the proven safety protocols that we would have suggested, these horses would still be alive,” said a PETA spokesperson.
When PETA pressed for answers, the animal rights group said that HBO refused the request. Per Kathy Guillermo, Vice President of PETA, “We asked for the names of the horses, whether they were retired racing horses and what their records had been, what physical condition they were in, what their rest periods were, and if they were checked between racing sequences. When we began to ask uncomfortable questions, they closed the door on us. We received an email this morning saying all this information is confidential and that they’re doing all that they can to prevent injuries.”
For their part, HBO claims that safety protocols were in place, and that after the deaths, safety measures were further increased to protect the horses.
According to Entertainment Weekly, “After the second accident, racing was suspended while the production worked with American Humane Association and racing industry experts to implement additional protocols specifically for horseracing sequences. The protocols included but were not limited to the hiring of an additional veterinarian and radiography of the legs of all horses being used by the production. Both HBO and AHA are committed to ensuring that all necessary safety procedures are in place and being implemented.”
Although HBO’s refusal to share information sounds suspicious, they have the AHA’s backing. Karen Rosa, a vice president within the organization, says that HBO follows safety standards and treats the horses well, giving them plenty of breaks and ensuring that no horse runs more than three times a day when filming. And HBO stands by that.
“In both cases, an American Humane Certified Safety Representative was monitoring the animal action and verified that all soundness checks had been performed by the on-set veterinarian. In both instances, AHA conducted a full investigation and reviewed the necropsy provided by the California Horse Racing Board. The California Horse Racing Board has jurisdiction over all fatalities on the Santa Anita racetrack, and a necropsy is required on all on-track fatalities.”
However, PETA is not backing down. Guillermo plans to ask for necropsy reports on the horses, claiming that they shouldn’t have broken down the way they did. “Breakdowns don’t just happen. They happen every day, obviously, but they don’t happen in the absence of conditions that create them. Horses breakdown for a reason, and often it has to do with the condition they’re in at the time they’re put on the track. So we want to know: Who were these horses that died?” she says.
As it stands, it seems that both HBO and the AHA will continue with the show, and PETA will continue to investigate. Until more answers come to light, all we can do is wait…and not watch.