It is generally held that when it comes to progressive legislation – of any kind – Canada is likely to take steps towards liberalisation sooner than the USA does. Whether rightly or wrongly, the impression in the States, in Canada, and worldwide, is that the Canadian way is to be America’s colder, more considerate brother. And so when the US Congress passed the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), some Canadian citizens, particularly those with an interest in equestrian sports, found themselves wondering whether in this case, the northerly neighbour would be in the rare position of looking to the south for tips.

First things first. HISA is an unquestionable positive step in American horse racing, and it should be welcomed by all people with an interest in equine welfare. It is also a fairly broadly-ranging bill, and anyone in Canada who works in the industry should take the time to read it through and see if there is anything we can learn from and apply to the sport of horse racing on this side of the border. Even if Canadian equestrians feel that the rules and regulations in the North are already ahead of what exists in the States, there’s always room to take influence. But should Canada be looking to move wholesale in a new direction?

Doping is already taken seriously in Canada

The main body of the new legislation in the USA deals predominantly with approaches to doping. On the heels of regulated betting in the States, more and more people are now betting on horse races, and the action on doping has been seen as a necessary step to clean up the sport. Now, it’s not the case that doping doesn’t happen in Canada, but when Robert Gerl was found to have been using ostarine on two of his horses that raced at Woodbine, he was fined heavily and banned from all involvement with horses for 20 years. Given how quickly the sport moves, that’s tantamount to a lifetime ban.

General welfare still raises some questions

If you’ve got any interest in California’s horse racing scene, you are sure to have heard that the state is currently running two side-by-side referendums on sports betting that are due at the ballot box in November. While Canadian race fans can already bet safe with Cloudbet and other sites, America’s richest state has seen more money invested in this vote than any other legislation ever. And animal welfare advocates have had their say, arguing that the passage of the law would allow a pattern of ill-treatment of horses at the state’s race tracks to continue. While US moves on doping are welcome, general welfare is felt to lag behind Canada even after HISA.

Canadian racing and welfare communities taking a balanced view

When it comes to judging the degree to which we could take a lesson from the States, it’s generally best to hear from Canadian trainers and equine care advocates. The consensus from these communities seems to be a “wait and see” message. It is broadly felt that existing legislation around welfare in Canada, which falls under provincial jurisdictions, is sufficient and in many ways outstrips the American version. However, if we see better results in the States as a result of this new legislation, there is every chance that pressure will arise to legislate on Parliament Hill too.

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