Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, who serves as Chief Veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, visited Laurel Park in Maryland March 22 to give a presentation titled, “Can We Put the ‘We’ in Welfare?”
Durenberger, who also is a horseracing industry consultant, former racing regulator and an accredited racing official, revisited and revised a presentation she made a few years ago in light of recent developments in the Thoroughbred industry. She focused on societal changes regarding the way animals are viewed and offered an “action plan” for industry stakeholders to advocate for the racehorse and present the value of the industry.
The action plan has three components: arguing the industry’s legitimacy, addressing a credibility gap, and being an ambassador for the horse and the industry.
The first item involves legislative advocacy.
“Animal-use industries are tremendous engines of economic development, particularly for rural economies,” Durenberger said. “Respond with numbers and your economic impact.”
As for racing’s credibility gap, she said it’s important to understand where those who aren’t involved in or support horse racing are coming from given evolving views on animals.
“Legitimacy also comes from listening to and responding to societal concerns about animal welfare,” Durenberger said. “Our horses are our spokespeople. They are incredible. I wouldn’t be here if the horses were not treated well. But we can’t take the questions personally. We have to accept that our opinions are not necessarily mainstream.”
She also said anyone in the industry can be an ambassador given extensive social media platforms and outreach opportunities that focus on the well-being of the racehorse. That, however, also includes self-policing.
“We must hold each other accountable for putting the horse first in everything we do, because when we do right by the horse, everything else follows,” Durenberger said.
The talk was sponsored by Beyond The Wire, Maryland’s Thoroughbred aftercare program, which in less than two years has helped re-home well over 170 retired racehorses.
“The biggest change I’ve noticed in the racing world is aftercare,” Durenberger said. “In my career as a regulatory veterinarian, aftercare is a game-changer.”
By: Tom LaMarra