Animal Aid

Grand National star horse set for retirement after Animal Aid warns of potential court action

Posted 15 May 2009

The trainer of this year's Grand National favourite, Butler's Cabin, has said that the horse might be retired, after Animal Aid warned him that he and Butler’s Cabin’s owner faced prosecution should the horse require medical treatment immediately after any future race.

The horse was entered into last month's incomparably challenging Grand National, at the end of which he collapsed in a highly distressed state and required oxygen. Following at least two other races, the 9 year old - who has won more than £180,000 in prize money - has needed oxygen or emergency medical treatment.

Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler wrote this month to leading trainer JJ O'Neill and multi-millionaire owner JP McManus pointing out that, 'Thoroughbred race horses, such as Butler’s Cabin, are protected under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. An important provision of the Act demands that animals are not subjected to “unnecessary suffering”. Another imposes a “duty of care” upon persons responsible for a protected animal.'

In response, O’Neill told Daily Express racing correspondent Brian Radford that Butler’s Cabin ‘might have run his last race. I would love him to keep going but I wouldn’t want him to collapse again and neither would JP.' (D. Express May 15)

Butler’s Cabin is now in Ireland where, says O’Neill, he will undergo a detailed veterinary examination.

Animal Aid will be writing again to O’Neill and McManus requesting a clear-cut assurance that Butler’s Cabin will not race again. The national campaign group will also ask that he is retired ‘with all his comforts and health needs fully provided for’, rather than being sent for slaughter or sold on to an uncertain future - the fate of many horses once they leave racing.

Animal Aid has also written to racing’s regulatory body, the British Horseracing Authority, declaring that ‘whatever system of on-course veterinary examination is in place, it is inadequate and leaves vulnerable horses at a high risk of avoidable injury and death’. In the letter to BHA Chairman, Paul Roy, Animal Aid gives a number of examples of high profile horses who have died on racecourses after being allowed to run, despite their health being conspicuously compromised.

In calling for a strict veterinary checking system, Animal Aid asks Roy: ‘If such well-known animals can be given the green light to race, despite self-evident health problems, what protection is afforded vulnerable horses who are not in the media spotlight?’

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

‘If Butler’s Cabin is forced to continue racing, there is the real prospect of him dying a wretched, painful on-course death. We are greatly encouraged by statements from JJ O’Neill indicating that Butler’s Cabin will be spared this fate. Assurances must now be given that he will be properly cared for and not go down the well-trodden route to the slaughterman. And the British Horseracing Authority must introduce a robust and effective veterinary checking system.’

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