Fatal horse overdose prompts PETA to call for criminal investigation

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For immediate release:
April 15, 2022

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Oceanport, New Jersey – This morning, PETA sent a letter to New Jersey Department of Agriculture Director and State Veterinarian Manoel Tamassia, requesting an investigation and the filing of appropriate criminal animal cruelty charges against the trainer of horses Cody Axmaker, who was penalized this week for the apparent clenbuterol overdose death of a horse named Wishful at Monmouth Park last May. Fourteen other horses were also said to have been overdosed with the drug but survived with treatment. Clenbuterol is intended to relieve respiratory illnesses, but has long been abused by trainers for its performance-enhancing properties, prompting many regulators and racetracks to restrict its use.

The New Jersey Racing Commission suspended Axmaker for two years and fined him $5,000 for possession of the banned substance and neglect of the horses in his care, but PETA points out that the horses’ overdose was also likely a violation of cruelty prevention laws and highlights the need for a criminal investigation. The group notes that Axmaker’s conduct appears to fall squarely within New Jersey’s animal cruelty law, which prohibits “willfully, knowingly, or recklessly poisoning … a living animal.”

“A fine and suspension should not replace a criminal investigation,” said Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president of PETA. “There have been victims here, including a horse called Wishful, and his murder deserves to be recognized for the crime that it was.”

PETA – whose motto says, in part, “animals are not ours to entertain” – notes that every week an average of 24 horses suffer fatal breakdowns at racetracks across the country, and that number is not does not even include horses that are rejected by the racing industry when they are no longer considered profitable.

PETA opposes speciesism, a human supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s news gathering and investigative reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, FacebookWhere instagram.

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