Kentucky 'Sponge Law' Introduced

In reaction to a dozen incidents in 1996 and 1997 of sponges being detected in the nostrils of horses at Churchill Downs, the Kentucky legislature will consider a bill that would strengthen the penalty imposed for tampering with a horse.

Existing laws treat such offenses under misdemeanor cruelty to animal statutes. State Sen. Danny Nunnelley of Midway, Ky., has introduced legislation that would make tampering with a racehorse a felony punishable by imprisonment. Possible charges would include interfering with interstate commerce or wire fraud for tampering with gambling, both of which carry prison sentences.

As a result of the sponging incidents the Kentucky Racing Commission continues to require pre-race exams of nostrils of all horses racing in the state. In the most widely-publicized case, Class O Lad began suffering from laminitis one day after sponges were detected in his nostrils after a race in which he was the 7-5 favorite. The horse eventually died as a result of problems attributable to complications from the laminitis.

A New Mexico trainer, Joe Meyers, had his license suspended for five years Jan. 25 in connection to an alleged sponging of a horse, "Absolutely Nothing," at the Downs at Santa Fe.

About the Author

Stephen M. Vest

Stephen Vest is a past contributor to The Blood-Horse, the sister publication to The Horse.

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