LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – County prosecutors Thursday said there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing connected to the deaths of dozens of horses at Santa Anita Park.

A report from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office issued several recommendations at improving safety at California race tracks, but concluded there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing as far as medication of horses or the condition of the track. The report also found no evidence of injured horses being intentionally or knowingly raced at Santa Anita or that the park had “unduly pressured trainers and jockeys to race when there were concerns about weather or track conditions.”

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“After a thorough investigation and review of the evidence, the district attorney’s task force did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct relating to the equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park,” according to a 17-page report issued by a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officers appointed by District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

According to the report, the number of horse deaths at Santa Anita jumped as high as 71 during the 2011-12 fiscal year from a low of 37 in the previous year.

Activists with PETA and other animal rights groups have called for Lacey to file criminal charges after 37 horses died at the Arcadia track since Dec. 2018.

The report also compared the average number of racing fatalities at Santa Anita with other venues across the U.S. and found the 2018 national average of racing
fatalities was 1.68 deaths per 1,000 racing starts. Santa Anita’s rate that year was 2.04 deaths per 1,000 starts.

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By comparison, the rate at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, was 2.73 deaths per 1,000 starts.

“Horse racing has inherent risks but is a legally sanctioned sport in California,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “Greater
precautions are needed to enhance safety and protect both horses and their riders.”

Last week, Santa Anita announced it would begin using new technology to determine whether horses are physically fit for racing.

The device, called the Longmile Positron Emission Tomography machine — or PET scanner for short — moves up and down the horse’s leg capturing imagery that the veterinarian can then analyze. If the horse moves during the scan, the ring automatically unlocks to protect the animal.

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“In addition to having an increased resolution, we can really look in any direction of space at any level,” Mathieu Spriet, a professor at UC Davis, said.