California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law Wednesday giving state officials authority to suspend or shut down horse races with little notice after 30 horses died this year at Santa Anita track.
“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” Newsom said as he signed the bill that state lawmakers passed unanimously.
The new law expands the authority of the California Horse Racing Board, which can now act in emergency cases instead of being forced to give public notice first.
Newson had already created a state panel that would evaluate a horse’s medical, training, and racing history.
Santa Anita, which is set to resume its racing season in September, has adopted its own standards, including banning jockeys from using whips during a race.
Santa Anita last week banned famed trainer Jerry Hollenorfer after four of his horses died at the track.
“I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita,” Newson said. “This model can save horses’ lives.”
Animal rights groups have long accused trainers and owners of using drugs and painkillers on horses and running them no matter what condition they may be in.
Activists have called on the racing industry to adopt a nationwide standard for deciding whether a horse is fit to run.