TORONTO, 9 AUGUST 2002 - The Humane Society of Canada is asking insurance companies across Canada to refuse to issue insurance policies for racing horses and stables unless standards are in place to prevent another disaster like Woodbine that resulted in the deaths of 32 horses.


"We look forward to the report from the Ontario Fire Marshall, but in the meantime, we are not waiting one minute longer for the racing industry or governments to take action," said HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan.


O'Sullivan's letter will outline the comprehensive action plan listed below in an attempt to prevent such tragedies, and he says The Humane Society of Canada will exert pressure on the racing industry by recommending that insurance companies refuse to issue insurance policies if the racing industry refuses to comply.

For more than 30 years, O'Sullivan has worked in Canada and around the world with horses. His father, a horseman, taught him how to care for these beautiful majestic animals. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.

"In my opinion, only a fool wouldn't take steps to make sure this kind of tragedy didn't take place again. And yet Woodbine officials still won't commit to installing a sprinkler system. If 32 people had died in a fire, especially at the same place where there had been a fire in 1990, no one would accept that kind of an answer, and neither do we," said an angry O'Sullivan.

"The racing industry in Canada generates millions of dollars each year off the backs of these horses. They can afford sprinkler systems and other safety measures," he said.

O'Sullivan also believes that while there has been a tremendous outpouring of sympathy, that most of it is misplaced, because it has focused more on the people who lost horses, rather than on the horses themselves.

"Horses are animals which flee from danger. Can you imagine the sheer terror, pain and suffering those horses went through, as they were burned alive. Their deaths will not be in vain. We will make certain of that, with or without the cooperation of the racing industry or governments," he promised.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at via twitter at and on Facebook at:

[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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The Humane Society of Canada will recommend in a letter today to insurance companies that they refuse to issue insurance policies if the racing industry refuses to comply with at least the following safety standards:

  • Assign overall responsibility for safety prevention to one person and provide him/her with the full authority, human and financial resources to do their job effectively
  • Install and maintain a sprinkler system and other fire suppression systems
  • Install and maintain a high pressure water mains system for use by the fire department
  • Install and maintain detection systems for fire and other hazards
  • Post "No Smoking" signs and have a zero tolerance policy, namely a $5,000 fine for the first and only offence, followed by an immediate and permanent eviction of the person responsible from the stables
  • Maintain a list of horses in each barn along with a list of which stalls are occupied and which are unoccupied. This will allow rescuers to know where in the barn horses may still be in a stall.
  • Develop and improve a plan for safe and efficient evacuation and for dealing with emergency situations such as fires. Conduct unannounced safety drills once each month with the appropriate people including family, neighbours, boarders and so forth
  • Keep a well-stocked first aid kit (one is available from The Humane Society of Canada) on hand along with your veterinarian's phone number (including their emergency phone number)
  • Install a phone in the barn so that a fire, or other emergency, can be reported quickly
  • Keep halters and lead ropes in a convenient location
  • Have a long garden hose hooked up to a water supply
  • Ensure that there are an appropriate number of exits and that they are kept free of debris and obstacles and the doors are maintained in good working order
  • Have tools and other equipment on hand - items such as a long ladder, garden hose with spray nozzle, shovel, rake, water bucket, blanket and so forth
  • Have a list of the animals on the premises and ways to contact their owners in an emergency
  • Put a decal in appropriate places indicating that animals reside inside (such a decal is available from The Humane Society of Canada)
  • Store fuel and other flammable materials in an approved safety container away from buildings housing animals (or people)
  • Check electrical systems and ensure that they are in good working condition, free of dust, dirt, cobwebs and combustible material like hay, straw and wood shavings
  • Don't permit oil or gas burning lamps, candles or other flammable materials in barns or other buildings housing animals
  • Make sure that hay, straw and wood shavings are dry or well-cured and stored away from buildings housing animals (only the bedding and feed that is actually in each animal's stall should be kept in the barn)
  • Protect light bulbs from animals and make sure that wiring and electrical fixtures are inaccessible to (or protected from) animals
  • If your animals have access to a fenced in yard, leave the barn door open, because most farm animals, and especially horses, are flight animals and flee at the first sign of danger
  • Some people who keep horses and other animals have even gone so far as to ensure that there are no electrical outlets or appliances at all in the barn area
  • Many stables are old; roofs and buildings should be kept in good repair
  • Report any suspected cases of arson immediately to the local police and your insurance company. Arson and fraud investigators have years of experience and a wide range of investigative and forensic techniques at their disposal, and offenders are almost always caught and punished