Whatever is causing the deaths of horses at Santa Anita Park, it's not criminal conduct, a nine-month investigation has found. Prosecutors made the announcement Thursday in releasing a 17-page report by a task force put together by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The task force reported it "did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct," the Los Angeles Times reports. The report listed 27 recommendations, but most of them already have been enacted or recommended by the state's Horse Racing Board. The district attorney said she would push for state legislation making veterinary records in the racing industry more transparent, per ESPN. "Greater precautions are needed to enhance safety and protect both horses and their riders," Jackie Lacey said in a statement.
There were 49 deaths at the racetrack in the year ending in June, the report said, which is above the national average but lower than years in the previous decade at Santa Anita. It's also below the death toll at Churchill Downs in Kentucky, the report said. PETA issued a statement saying the organization agrees with the district attorney that the industry hasn't made enough of an effort to protect horses. But it disagreed on the issue of criminality. "It's beyond credible that the district attorney doesn't see that trainers who medicate horses obviously know that they are injured and sore, so they should be criminally culpable if they then force them to race to their deaths," PETA said. (A national TV audience and 67,000 spectators were watching the Breeders' Cup when Mongolian Groom broke down.)