American Humane Association Disputes PETA's Assertions About Protection of Horses on "Luck"

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Documents Paint Consistent Portrait of Responsibility and Passionate Advocacy for Animals; New Senior Leader Appointed to Complete Investigation

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 4, 2012 – American Humane Association disputes assertions by PETA in its news release dated May 3, 2012 regarding the HBO series, “Luck.” American Humane Association went to great lengths to prevent sick, unfit, and drugged horses from being used on set, and in fact internal documents showcase the extraordinary dedication and vigilant advocacy of American Humane Association staff in protecting the welfare of the horses on the “Luck” set. A review of the documents written by the 12 Certified Safety Representatives and California-licensed Humane Officers placed on the set by AHA over the year and a half of filming unequivocally demonstrate the integrity, dedication, and unswerving commitment to animal welfare as they went about their 70-year-long mission, proactively identifying potential health and safety issues with the animals used in “Luck,” pulling horses that appeared sick, medicated or unable to participate safely, and working to ensure as much as is humanly possible that No Animals Were Harmed®.

PETA’s assertion that “sick horses were regularly used in filming” is simply not true.  Every animal presented for consideration in filming each day underwent a veterinary check in the presence of experienced AHA representatives. Horses who displayed signs of illness or injury were pulled and their use in filming prohibited.  Animals displaying signs of being medicated or drugged were pulled and their use in filming prohibited.  When a severely underweight horse was spotted by our safety representatives, it was pulled and its use prohibited until such time it was healthy. American Humane Association also asked that the lead animal coordinator be an experienced movie trainer.

Throughout the production, American Humane Association’s famed Film and Television Unit, which protects between 10,000-15,000 animal actors on 2,000 sets a year, acted quickly, decisively, and responsibly to keep the horses safe and to prevent filming of animals who were ill, injured, medicated, or otherwise unfit to perform. AHA’s rigorous and extensive Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media forbid the use of sick, injured, medicated, underfed, or otherwise unfit animals, and the safety reps were diligent and proactive in pulling horses who showed these signs.

When a second horse fell during the course of a year and half of filming and tragically had to be euthanized, American Humane Association demanded and HBO agreed that a raft of further significant protections be added to its already strict guidelines, including:

A second, independent veterinarian to check the horses, as well as additional soundness checks

  • Radiographs (x-rays) of all horses’ legs to ensure there were no underlying conditions that could not be detected through normal soundness checks
  • Random drawing of blood to detect minute levels of drugs
  • Microchipping of all horses so that AHA would have instant access to the animals’ full medical histories and allow us to determine what roles, if any, were safe for the horses to perform

Following these stringent additional safeguards, there were no more such accidents on set, demonstrating their effectiveness.  AHA also recommended that the lead animal coordinator be an experienced movie trainer.  In March of this year, a horse who was not being filmed but being walked to its stall by an experienced track handler was frisky, reared up, fell backwards, and was fatally injured.  Although it appeared to be an accident, American Humane Association immediately insisted that all animal action be suspended until an investigation into the cause was completed. At that point, “Luck” was cancelled, which in light of the tragic events was arguably the best decision that could have been made.

New Senior Leadership Brought In

To conduct the investigation and help broaden the scope of American Humane Association’s ability to monitor the welfare of animal actors on and off the set to include training and proper retirement, on April 1, the organization’s CEO brought in the respected animal health and welfare leader Paul Raybould, former Executive Vice President of Morris Animal Foundation.  When completed, the investigation report findings will be turned over to all appropriate authorities.

Mr. Raybould will also head up efforts to significantly improve the overall welfare of animals used in film through the formation of an independent Scientific Advisory Board whose role it will be to help guide continuous improvement to our guidelines, and by seeking methods to extend the historic mission of protecting animals to cover and create stringent guidelines for the training of animals before they ever reach a film or television set, as well as ensuring they find homes after their careers are over.  American Humane Association is currently working on this particular ambition with HBO, locating good, safe, loving homes for the horses of “Luck.”

About American Humane Association

Since 1877 American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

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