At issue: medical records at the track

At issue: medical records at the track

N.Y. proposal to make them accessible on demand draws opposition
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Nov 01, 2009

New York — In a move that could have wide-ranging implications, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) weighed in on a proposed rule in New York that would require racehorse owners, trainers and veterinarians to produce on demand horses' medical records 45 days before they are scheduled to race or face stiff penalties.

The rule, proposed by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in a move to tighten medication and drug standards, calls for "every owner and trainer of a horse … to continuously have available, for immediate inspection by any board official who requests it, the horse's veterinary record, for every administration of a drug, medication or other substance to the horse within 45 days before its race…"

The rule adds that failure to provide the records could result in a scratch, disqualification and/or listing of a horse as ineligible and other penalties against the owner, trainer and/or veterinarian, "including a fine and suspension or revocation of the occupational license."

Major racehorse owners groups and racetrack veterinarians voiced strong objection, on grounds that the rule would place an unreasonable and impractical burden of paperwork on trainers and owners, virtually forcing them to carry medical records on their person all all times they are at racetracks. Many owners are frequently absent.

In a letter to the racing board, the AAEP says it "supports transparency and availability of complete veterinary records in a timely fashion" for racehorses, but says veterinary records are privileged and confidential and must not be released without court order or the owner's consent, and that it would be "onerous and impractical" to require owners and trainers to produce the records immediately.

The letter, signed by AAEP President Dr. Harry Werner, cites an existing New York rule requiring veterinarians to keep accurate and up-to-date medical records on horses and make them accessible to racing authorities in a timely manner. It says simply enforcing that rule would allow officials to obtain all information needed without burdening owners and trainers.

The AAEP says is currently developing "best practice" recommendations that says will help address the New York racing board's concerns without creating an undue hardship on owners and trainers, and will provide the recommendations once they are finalized and approved by the AAEP board.

Those recommendations will offer guidance on medication, drug testing and other practices that could be of value to racing jurisdictions around the country. New York authorities say their racetrack system is not the only one beset with complaints about overmedication of horses.

New York board officials say they are intent at pushing through reforms, but are amenable to revising the rule to limit the responsibility for producing medical records on demand to trainers and veterinarians, not owners.

At press time, the board planned to meet with the New York State Veterinary Medical Society to discuss the rule and a possible compromise.