June 3, 2003, TORONTO - The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the blaze at Woodbine Racetrack last August that killed 34 horses and injured many others. A report released by Ontario Fire Marshal investigators has concluded that an arsonist was responsible for the fire.
However, the animal charity also levelled harsh criticism at racetrack officials for their part in failing to establish adequate safety procedures: "In 1990, there was a fire that reports say was also deliberately set and which killed 6 horses - and yet Woodbine Racetrack still did not install a water sprinkler system. Now we have news that the fire last August, which killed even more horses, was also deliberately set. And once again, there was no sprinkler system in place," said Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director.
The lack of animal safety procedures so concerned The Humane Society of Canada that last August they wrote 74 letters to insurance companies, racing commissions, racetracks, provincial ministries overseeing gambling and horse racing, and premiers. The letter outlined serious animal welfare concerns and recommended that unless certain safety standards were followed by the racing industry that insurance companies should not insure either racetracks or racehorses. Not a single racetrack responded to the letter, and only 19 other responses were received.
For a copy of their letter and recommended safety procedures letter click here or contact The Humane Society of Canada at 1-800-641-KIND (5463).
However, even though the racing industry failed to make any public commitment towards the well being of horses, HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan, believes that in part, their efforts caused enough pressure to force Woodbine Racetrack to begin efforts to install a sprinkler system and upgrade their safety procedures: "If the racing industry is looking for a pat on the back from us, they are badly mistaken. All we can say is that it’s about time they starting caring more for their horses," said an angry O’Sullivan.
"The racing industry of Canada generates billions of dollars each year off the backs of the horses who race. This multi-billion dollar a year industry can afford sprinkler systems, effective security and other safety measures. And if other racetracks don’t follow suit, then cut off their insurance policies; that will get their attention." O’Sullivan predicted.
O’Sullivan is urging anyone with information on the racetrack fire to call Toronto Police Services at 416-808-2304 or The Humane Society of Canada at 1-800-641-KIND (5463). Horse lovers who would like to donate money to increase the reward can also contact the charity.
"Those responsible for this brutality need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Currently under the Criminal Code, acts of cruelty to horses are indictable offences that can result in prison sentences of up to 5 years. There is a connection between animal cruelty and violence against people. Setting fire to buildings full of horses and condemning them to a terrifying fiery death means those responsible have absolutely no compunction at all about harming people. These are dangerous, violent people," warns O’Sullivan.
CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280
[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.
A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]
The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.
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