On 18th November 2022, a US federal appeals court in New Orleans ruled that congress gave too much power to a non-profit authority it created in 2020 to develop and enforce horseracing rules. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act 2021 (HISA) is “facially unconstitutional.” The non-profit created by the HISA was aimed to bring uniform policies and enforcement to horseracing, as a way to address the many animal welfare problems of the industry — including the many horses’ deaths. But the judges ruled in favour of the horseracing associations of Texas, Louisiana, and West Virginia, which filed the lawsuits.
Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote for the panel that ruled in the Texas case the following: “A cardinal constitutional principle is that federal power can be wielded only by the federal government. Private entities may do so only if they are subordinate to an agency.”
Among the subjects covered by the authority’s rules and enforcement were jockey safety, how often riders can use the riding crop in a race, the reporting of training and veterinary records, and racetrack accreditation. Animal protection groups supported the law because of the scandals in the industry involving medication and the treatment of horses, but the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and similar pro-racing groups opposed it. Until horseracing is banned, these sorts of laws could have helped some animals, but if they cannot be applied then calling for a total abolition is the only way forward. This is what animal rights organisations have always been calling for (vegan organisations even oppose riding horses, let alone racing them), but some animal welfare organisations may still be hoping for reform — this ruling may lead them to conclude that this strategic route has been exhausted.