Animal welfare groups call for investigations into WinStar’s Laoban death


The 2021 death of the Laoban stallion prompted calls for investigations from two animal welfare organizations, with one calling on Woodford County Sheriff John Wilhoit to consider criminal charges.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals On Monday, Wilhoit urged Wilhoit to determine whether WinStar Farm, veterinarian Dr. Heather Wharton and Laoban’s owners violated Kentucky law by “intentionally or wantonly” subjecting animals in their care to “cruel neglect.” PETA and Animal Wellness Action are separately pursuing grievances with the Kentucky Board of Veterinary Examiners.

Laoban passed away on May 24, 2021, minutes after an intravenous injection of a cocktail of four vitamins and minerals known as “Black Shot”. Three of the four substances were given past their expiry date, one nearly nine years old – an iron product that had been indicated for anemia in baby pigs, but not in horses.

As a result, the North American Specialty Insurance Company dismissed mortality claims on the stallion, citing “possible negligent oversight by WinStar’s pharmacy and possibly improper protocols related to veterinary decisions at WinStar”.

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Laoban had previously bred with 126 mares during his first year of stud service at WinStar, but was injected in a bid to spur his interest in breeding after failing to complete one of five mating sessions. over a two-day period.

WinStar chief executive Elliott Walden declined interview requests from the Courier Journal, limiting his remarks to a prepared statement in which he described the horse’s death as “a traumatic experience…felt by everyone in the farm”, and quoted the insurance companies. “self-interest in denying the allegations and blaming others.”

Wharton did not respond to requests for comment.

“While it appears Wharton bears the blame, the influence of the breeding manager and others at the stable as well as that of the owners must also be considered,” wrote the senior vice president of PETA. , Kathy Guillermo, in her letter to Wilhoit. “It is well known in horse racing that veterinarians must follow the instructions of owners, managers, trainers and other persons responsible for the horses. The role of these persons and their specific instructions regarding veterinary care must be studied.”

Dr Cynthia Cole, director of the University of Florida’s stroke lab, said clients sometimes pressure vets to defy their own instincts, saying: “If you don’t, we’ll find someone. ‘one who will.’ But according to an insurance document denying the claims of Cypress Creek Equine and Southern Equine Stables, Wharton acted largely on his own initiative.

Insurance company attorney Harvey Feintuch said Wharton agreed to give Laoban a dose of vitamin B12 in consultation with WinStar Farm Manager David Hanley and Stallion Manager Larry McGinnis. but did not discuss his decision to include vitamin C, vitamin B complex and hydrogenated iron dextran as additional ingredients in the injection.

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“Dr. Wharton believed that these additional medications would increase Laoban’s energy level,” the insurance company’s document states. “Dr. Wharton’s theory was based on his limited experience working at racetracks in California. Neither Dr. Wharton nor the chief resident veterinarian, Natanya Nieman, had ever administered this type of vaccine to a horse at WinStar. The Dr. Nieman had never even injected an adult horse with a vitamin, let alone a vitamin blend with added iron dextran.”

Laoban reacted violently within a minute of the injection, eventually collapsing in a corner of the cabin “with his limbs flailing”. Efforts to revive him with steroid injections failed. Wharton attributed the stallion’s death to anaphylactic shock,

Details of the stallion’s disappearance had been circulating by word of mouth for months, but remained unsubstantiated until the Courier Journal obtained a copy of the insurance company’s denial. Calls for investigation soon followed.

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“The horses we care about so much and the equine industry that fuels a huge part of the Commonwealth economy deserves this matter to be addressed quickly,” wrote Marty Irby and Joseph Grove of Animal Wellness Action to the chairman of the board. veterinary examiners Dr. Steven J. Wills and state veterinarian Dr. Katie Flynn.

Quick action seems unlikely. Before the Board of Veterinary Examiners can consider whether or not to authorize an investigation, the procedures require that the subject of a grievance be given 30 days to respond to an initial investigation.

Guillermo said PETA’s grievance was filed Monday night.

The veterinary council meets every two months and is due to meet again on May 26. Wilhoit did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding his interest in investigating.

Tim Sullivan: 502-582-4650, [email protected]; Twitter: @TimSullivan714


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