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article image13,000 horses face slaughter if Ont. racing industry collapses

By Darren Weir     Sep 2, 2012 in World
Toronto - The horseracing industry in Ontario, Canada is struggling and some believe it will face a complete shutdown next year. If that happens, a government panel believes as many as 13,000 horses would be killed.
The Toronto Star reports that it's expected that at least two-thirds of the racing tracks are going to face a shut down and for those that remain open, they will have fewer race days and smaller purses. That all adds up to owners and breeders trying to justify maintaining expensive animals with little chance of getting back their investment.
Thoroughbred owner Ian Howard says, “The question is, if (a horse’s) value is zero, how do you justify feeding them when you have no way to make a living anymore because the tracks you need to be in existence are gone?” “That’s when it gets ugly.”
Things got bad for the industry in the spring when the provincial government decided to cancel the agreement it had, to share money from the slots program with racetracks and the money ($345 million in 2011-2012) would be used for provincial health care and education instead.Then The Star says a Horse Racing Industry Transitional Panel report last month estimated that about half the horses now racing, between 7500 and 13,000 animals, would be euthanized as a result, and there was little help offered in terms of moral or financial support. A finance report last week suggested that Ontario's 17 racetracks will need to be consolidated to just 7 or 8 tracks for the industry to remain viable.
Glenn Sikura, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Ontario division says, “It’s a sad reality.” “We’ve been so cautious not to talk about (mass euthanasia) in the industry because first of all, we’re all animal lovers and god forbid anything like that would happen.” The report estimates that between 20,000-30,000 people working full-time in the industry would also lose their jobs.
All eyes will be on the annual thoroughbred yearling auction at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack this week. How many horses sell and for what prices will signal how much confidence is left in the shaky Ontario horseracing industry. Sikura says the sale makes up about three-quarters of the annual income for breeders and if prices fall below the $25,000 average from last year's sale, it will spell disaster for some owners and put them out of business immediately. He adds, “If a $20,000 horse becomes a $10,000 horse, then the horse that used to bring $10,000 is now a giveaway,” estimating it costs about $30,000 a year to care for a horse that races regularly.
Some are now rallying to try to win public support to keep the industry alive, with an online petition hoping to collect 50,000 signatures. But since it started in February less than 10,000 names have been added. There's also a website and a Facebook page that has collected fewer than 500 members.
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