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Whistleblower Charges HBO With Animal Abuse on Failed Horseracing Drama

Posted  January 4, 2013

By Marlene Koury

HBO’s horseracing drama “Luck” was fraught with criticism from animal rights activists and high-profile incidents of sick and dying horses during its short production.  Among these incidences, two horses were injured and euthanized during filming in 2010 and 2011 and a third horse died from a head injury in March 2012.  HBO quickly cancelled the show that same month, shortly after airing its first episode and renewing the series for a second season.

HBO claimed that they “took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production.”  In a lawsuit filed January 2, however, whistleblower Barbara Casey tells a different story.  Click here to see the complaint.

Casey was a former director of American Humane Association’s film and television unit.  AHA is hired to monitor film and TV sets to assure that animals are treated safely, ethically, humanely and lawfully during the making of any production.  According to Casey, HBO and “Luck” producer Stewart Productions engaged in ongoing, systematic, and unlawful animal abuse and cruelty.  Casey alleges that horses were routinely drugged to perform racing scenes and that underweight and sick or arthritic horses were used during production of the series.  She further claims that HBO and Stewart Productions misidentified horses so that those responsible for animal safety would be unable to track the horses’ medical histories or suitability for use in the show.  And she claims that a fourth horse was killed in 2011, but that the AHA did not document his death because it occurred during a hiatus in filming and therefore “did not count.”

According to Casey, HBO and Stewart Productions pressured the AHA to cover up these abuses.  She claims that the AHA “bowed to political and financial pressure” and went along with the show’s producers over her objections.  Her complaints, she alleges, resulted in her termination after thirteen years of employment with the AHA.

Casey is not the first to blow the whistle on the alleged animal abuses on the set of “Luck.”  PETA spokesperson Wendy Wenger said that PETA received over a dozen complaints from whistleblowers alleging similar abuses during the filming of Luck.  PETA filed complaints with the Los Angeles district attorney’s office and with the California Veterinary Medical Board.  Those investigations are ongoing.  If the allegations by Casey and these other whistleblowers are true, the surviving horses certainly got “lucky” when HBO cancelled the show.