HBO Cancels Show After Third Horse Dies

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According to an article in USA Today, HBO is canceling the show "Luck" after three horses died in separate incidents. The show about horse racing starred Dustin Hoffman and was canceled following a demand from the American Humane Association, which oversees animal action in movies, television, commercials and music videos. The rest of the first season will be shown, but the second season, which was already in production, will not air.

The cable channel stated, "While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won't in the future . . . Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision." In a rare move after the third horse died on Tuesday, the American Humane Association demanded "that all production involving horses shut down" pending an investigation.

On the set on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, a horse reared up and fell backwards while being led to the stables. The horse suffered a head injury and had to be euthanized. As of Wednesday evening,March 14, the American Humane Association had not yet updated its review of "Luck", and the review displayed a "Monitored: Special Circumstances" certification because of the two prior horse deaths. This certification means that the "Production followed American Humane Association's PA-FILM-guidelines and cooperated with the protective measures enforced by our Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ , an accident, injury or death involving an animal occurred during the course of filming.

A full investigation revealed that the incident was not a result of negligence or malice on the part of the production or animal suppliers."

Regarding the two prior deaths, AHA explained:
During the filming of the new HBO series, Luck, two fatal accidents occurred several months apart — one during the filming of the pilot and one during the filming of the seventh episode. The two racehorses stumbled and fell during short racing sequences. The horses were checked immediately afterwards by the onsite veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable. The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia . . . Because of these accidents, the two episodes in question do not carry the full certification, “No Animals Were Harmed”®. To provide the highest possible degree of scrutiny with serial productions, each episode is monitored individually and given a rating. No such incidents occurred in other episodes, which did allow them to achieve certification. Following the second incident, American Humane Association insisted that production be suspended and imposed additional stringent soundness protocols. These included, but were not limited to, daily training and care records, microchips in all of the horses, hiring an additional veterinarian to do the comprehensive soundness checks at the top of the day, and radiographs of the legs of all horses being considered for use on the show. We insisted that these protocols be in place before any filming could resume. HBO agreed to all our requests and worked collaboratively regarding these many additional safety guidelines and precautions, and resumed filming once all of the horses in the show stable were radiographed and those deemed at risk were pulled.

The production also used a mechanical horse to reduce risks to the real horses, employed creative camera angles and post-production techniques to achieve an appearance that the horses were going faster than they were, and rested the horses between runs.

The animal rights position is that animals should not be used in entertainment, including movies and horse racing, because regardless of the precautions taken or the minimization of injuries and death, the animals have a right to be free of human use and exploitation. Additional concerns include abuse and cruelty to animals as well as the connection between horse racing and horse slaughter.
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