Racehorse death at 2021 Devonport Cup 'highlights inherent animal welfare issues', says RSPCA

Tasracing staff tend to Douglas after the gelding crashed into the outside barrier during race three on the Devonport Cup program. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.
Tasracing staff tend to Douglas after the gelding crashed into the outside barrier during race three on the Devonport Cup program. Picture: Simon Sturzaker.

Animal welfare activists are calling for a review into Tasmanian horse racing after the "tragic" death of a four-year-old racehorse at the 2021 Devonport Cup.

RSPCA CEO Jan Davis said Douglas' "appalling" death highlighted the "inherent welfare issues involved with racing".

"The frequency of catastrophic injury in horse races is of grave concern to the RSPCA - and to all Tasmanians who care for animals," she said.

"On average, at least two horses die every week on Australian racecourses, so the sad fact is that this death was a tragic but hardly unforeseeable outcome."

She said it was time for a comprehensive review and a change of practices to minimise the risk of a similar event happening in the future.

"This very unfortunate incident highlights the need for the industry to work together with the RSPCA and other stakeholders to achieve better welfare outcomes for animals used in sport," Ms Davis said.

"Whenever there is an adverse outcome for an animal, as there was in this race, our expectation is that there will be a comprehensive review to identify ways to avoid injury or trauma to racehorses in the future.

"The Tasmanian community expects the racing industry to make every effort to minimise the risk to horses, so these processes must be public, transparent and timely."

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Neither Tasracing or Racing Minister Jane Howlett confirmed whether the incident would spark a direct review into the industry, but both confirmed animal welfare was a "core priority".

A Tasracing spokesperson said the racing body stood by its approach, which was "as good as any racing jurisdiction in Australia".

"No one could have predicted the unfortunate death of the horse at Devonport yesterday," they said.

"The animal died on the track as a result of a suspected heart attack, though the horse's cause of death will be determined by an autopsy."

Racing Minister Jane Howlett said the Tasmanian government was committed to "continually improving animal welfare outcomes".

"This is why we have made significant and unprecedented investment into welfare measures, while also introducing new rules, policies and other strategies to improve animal welfare outcomes," she said.

"Our Government will continue to work with Tasracing to look at ways of improving animal welfare across all three racing codes."

This story 'Appalling' racehorse death highlights inherent animal welfare issues: RSPCA first appeared on The Advocate.