By Rory Carroll
(Reuters) -A federal judge on Tuesday granted Louisiana and West Virginia’s request to halt implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) in those states until a wider lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is decided.
U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty granted a preliminary injunction, saying that the threatened harm to the states and their racing commission outweighed that of the defendants, which included the HISA Authority.
HISA is charged with setting up the nationwide structure under which race horses will be drug tested, replacing the previous, state-by-state regulatory system.
Doughty said that his decision was a narrow one.
“This Court is only ruling on the adoption of the rules by HISA, not the constitutionality of the Act,” he wrote.
HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said that the ruling was limited in geographical scale and does not question HISA’s constitutionality.
“The majority of racing participants support the Authority’s mission to protect those who play by the rules and hold those who fail to do so accountable in order to keep our equine and human athletes safe and the competition fair,” Lazarus said.
“The immense collaboration with state racing commissions, stewards, veterinarians, racetracks, trainers, and other horsemen that has taken place to date is evidence of this support, and we intend to continue to fulfill our mandate and work to make the industry safer.”
Animal rights activists blasted the ruling.
“It’s a shame to see the federal court side with rogue state operators and officials who continue to help keep doping and animal abuse alive in American horse racing while the bodies of dead horses pile up in Louisiana and West Virginia,” said Marty Irby, the executive director of Animal Wellness Action.
“If these states insist on operating under the status quo then we will make sure to further highlight every doping incident, death, and scandal in their domains.
“The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is the sport’s last chance at survival.”
The Louisiana and West Virginia State Racing Commissions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
HISA passed in late 2020 and puts anti-doping/medication control and safety programs under the umbrella of the independent, non-governmental HISA as opposed to individual state racing commissions.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Stephen Coates)