PETA is a Bully

 (I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Larry Bramlage and Euki Binns for their help in validating research and statistical information for this article, and to @JennyPhoto for the supporting pictures.)

I can no longer remain silent about my love for horses and for horse racing for fear of backlash from PETA and other extremist organizations that claim to be looking out for our horses’ welfare. PETA’s modus operandi is to scream louder than the people and industries they attack, but unfortunately, while they promote themselves as a savior of horses, a closer look into their practices suggests otherwise. I have read through numerous lawsuits against them, I’ve looked up their kill-rates, and I’ve read about their revenue allocations. PETA is pro-PETA, not pro-animals, and they are behaving like a bully.

PETA vs the horse-lover

Donna’s niece and nephews with a foal they helped raise

In PETA’s Statement on Companion Animals, they state their belief that even dogs and cats (domesticated for thousands of years alongside our horses) should be free of all human interaction. In other words, PETA is on a mission whose end-game is to eventually halt the natural bond between man and animal that has led them to co-exist since before written record! Organized horse racing has been a part of our United States family culture since at least 1667. Long before the invention of baseball, basketball, football—pretty much any current sport you can think of— people were enjoying a variety of equestrian sports with their beloved horses. Horses have also seen man into civilization; helped them win battles at war; carried man across continents; plowed their fields (including the grain, hay and bedding these horses needed to survive through hard winters), led hunts and so much more for thousands of years. Yes, horses have taken care of man—but man has taken care of them too.

People haven’t domesticated horses, dogs and cats, they’ve domesticated themselves. At some point along the evolutionary chain these once wild animals realized that living near and around homo sapiens could benefit them. As they got closer and closer to our bi-pedal species their food sources became more reliable and their living conditions became less volatile. And so these relationships have grown over the years and we’ve become closer to our animals and them to us. And now, after thousands of years of evolutionary development of these mutually beneficial interactions, PETA marches in insisting that this is all wrong? Well I beg to differ.

Donna with her older sister, Leah on their first pony, Christmas

I have been involved with and loved horses since my earliest memories. My mother rode horses with me in her womb and I have no memory of when I rode my first horse: I’ve just always ridden. I don’t just love horses, I live and breathe them and owe everything I have to them. In fact, I’ve been taking care of horses—and they’ve been taking care of me—for my entire life. I do not and will not apologize for my love of the horse or of horse racing.

Feral horses vs domesticated horses

The thing about horses is that they’re going to run, play, jump, frolic and race across vast fields with or without us. What makes us love them is that they are gracious enough to let us go along for the ride. And, yes, sometimes horses are fatally injured alone in a field—or on the track—while doing this. It will break my heart every single time, but I know with all that I am, that they love their humans and their sport as much as we love them and this sport that allows us to interact with them in a deeply meaningful and fulfilling way.

Injury and other causes of death

The causes of death for a horse are many. Colic is the number one cause of death in domestic horses though infectious diseases, metabolic diseases, bone and tissue degeneration, and acute trauma (including fractures) also ranks high. But, in terms of evolution, fracture injury is the natural mechanism by which most horses’ lives terminate, and our studies of feral and other wild horses show that this remains the number one reason for elimination of wild horses from the herd.

Though musculoskeletal injury to a horse during racing is an aberration, it is a gut wrenching event for everyone. Horses are made to run. Horses love to run. But history shows us that running naturally ends the majority of horses’ lives when left to their own devices. In fact, humans don’t force horses into vulnerability, it is just the opposite. Much of what humans know about the care of horses, from our advances in modern medicine, our understanding of biomechanics and training, and our advances in nutrition and therapeutic protocols, is owed to private funding from the thoroughbred racing industry. We reduce the likelihood of terminal skeletal injury, and we’re getting better at it all the time. That said, we cannot totally eliminate the evolutionary destiny of horses left to their own accord anymore than we can eradicate all diseases and fractures in man.

PETA behind the scenes

As for PETA. Please. All one has to do is Google “people against PETA” to find website after website, article after article of the atrocities that PETA has committed upon domesticated animals and the families that own them. Yes, if they have their way we will never race horses again, nor will we be able to ride them in any fashion. No show jumping, no dressage, no hunters, no endurance, no pleasure and no trail riding…all of it banned, eventually. To PETA, this isn’t about racing.

PETA is against people interacting with animals. Sound extreme? I didn’t make this up; it’s in their Statement on Companion Animals! PETA believes that harboring a domesticated animal of any kind (most of which are unable to survive in the wild) is a cruel form of animal slavery. This is extreme, and yet PETA takes it one step further: PETA believes that domesticated animals are better, not simply set free, but euthanized straight away in the event that they contract an infectious disease or get hit by a moving vehicle. Illness or injury is not PETA’s only standard for euthanasia. Dozens of articles can be found online of PETA’s active mission to not just euthanize the sick and injured, but perfectly healthy dogs, cats, kittens and puppies. This calls into question their ability to follow not only their own publicized standards for euthanasia, but the legal standards they must follow to continue operating their shelter in Virginia.

Nathan J. Winogard, graduate of Stanford Law School, animal rights consultant and executive director of the national No Kill Advocacy Center estimates here, that PETA’s effective kill rate for cats in 2018 came in at 99% when taking into account the agreements they have with shelters to euthanize the animals PETA delivers to them.

According to this 2015 article from the Washington Post, PETA’s kill rate for 2014 was 81%, with a kill rate in some years exceeding 90%. By comparison, that same article states that the average kill rate at other Virginia shelters came in at less than 25%.

In the linked article by Adele Douglass, the Executive Director of the nonprofit, Humane Farm Animal Care states that following an official investigation to determine if PETA’s shelter license could be revoked in the state of Virginia, Dr. Daniel Kovich, an investigator for Virginia Department of Agriculture issued the following: The findings of this site visit support the assertion that PETA does not operate a facility that meets the statutory definition of an animal shelter as the primary purpose is not to find permanent adoptive homes for animals.” PETA’s lawyer responded to VDACS arguing that a legal technicality protected their status as an animal shelter.

In an article by Julie Scheidegger for DVM Magazine, she offers this compelling quote from AKC Chairman, Alan Kalter, “While most shelters strive for a 90% re-homing rate, PETA is apparently proud of their 99% killing rate and callously boasts that the animals it rescues are ‘better off dead.’ That is an alarming ratio that should be fully investigated. PETA’s track record is absolutely unacceptable,”

“I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself…I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.”  Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president of PETA,

This is a quote by Newkirk from a 2003 interview with Michael Specter, for The New Yorker. In this same article, Newkirk shuns even the use of guide dogs and had admitted to taking a seeing-eye dog away from the dog’s blind owner.

Do you want an organization such as this, protecting your beloved companions?

I understand the knee jerk reaction when a horse suffers a catastrophic injury – when ANY living being suffers a catastrophic injury. When something so heartbreaking happens, I often think this hurts too much to bear. It sounds silly to those who don’t follow horse racing, but these horses aren’t just our friends. We work with them day in and day out. Our entire life revolves around their care and they become family. We cheer for them and fear for them. We hope for them, we laugh with them, and we even cry for them. The loss of even one of our horses can make me wonder if the angry voices are right.

 Photo credit: jennyphoto17 on Instagram, @jennyphoto7 on Twitter

PETA: a reality check

And that’s when I have to take a deep breath, leave emotion and impetuous judgements behind, spurn Pollyannaish aspirations, and come back to reality. Statistics can be difficult to ignore whether they support your cause or impugn it. Compared to approximately 55 training or racing fatalities per month in the U.S. (1.86 per 1,000 starts), there are nearly 3,300 human deaths per month due to automobile accidents.

With these approximately 55 horse fatalities spread throughout all U.S. tracks, it is truly a rare occurrence to witness one. It is also rare to actually see a dead person on the side of the road, and yet a person is 60 times more likely to die when they get in a car than a racehorse is to die when exercising. Witnessing even one catastrophic vehicular accident can scar a person for life, and yet we continue to make the decision to buckle our children into car seats or seat belts on a daily basis.

Responsible media reporting

It turns out that it is actually safer to race our horses than it is to drive our children on the roads, but if we leave the story-telling of this subject to extremist groups such as PETA and sensationalist media sources seeking to exploit anyone’s suffering, anyone’s loss, any negative tidbit that can be found in order to increase their ratings, views, clicks and hits, then those who know very little about horse racing would be led to believe the loudest voice: extremist organizations like PETA and known, sensationalist news outlets that in the end, are also deeply profiting from this gambit.

Irresponsible media reporting is not the fault of the public. They’re simply watching news they have been told they can trust, and then reacting instinctively. Any psychologist will also tell you that we humans are emotional creatures that are prone to category errors and dreadfully poor at understanding and calculating risk. As an example, consider all of the people you know who are deathly afraid of spiders and/or snakes in spite of the fact that, in the United States, you have about a one in 50 million chance of dying from a snake bite. And since the dawn of modern anti-venom, death from spider is almost nonexistent. Even in Australia, a place known to have some of the most venomous spiders in the world, there have been no reported deaths related to spider bites since 1979.

Like all sport horses (from warmbloods to Arabians and beyond), our Thoroughbred racehorses are athletes. Just like human athletes, our equine athletes suffer injury in both competition and training. Many of these injuries are repairable given sufficient time off, however, broken bones are often catastrophic and fatal because horses do not understand that they need to keep weight off of a leg in order for it to heal and they are biologically designed to stand and graze. In some (though not all) cases, the humane option is euthanasia. In the wild, a broken bone ensures the horse suffers until being found and eaten by a predator.

I’ve seen numerous competition, training and pasture accidents (including breaks) in our other competitive equestrian sports as well. The two major differences are that one, every competition isn’t captured on camera as it is in organized horse racing and, two, there is not as much money involved with many of these other disciplines and so the visibility and reporting also isn’t there.

The use of force

One of the arguments against racing that I’ve heard is that people can accept injuries in human athletes since they choose to compete, but race horses are forced to race—it’s not their choice. Any horseman reading this can confirm that this is not even possible!

I once was told a story about a very reluctant horse tasked to a European cavalry officer from World War II that had had the opportunity to ride/train many horses and was himself a former Olympic team member. This had been the most difficult case he had ever had and it was with a beautiful warmblood with tremendous ability that would not move forward once tacked. He and multiple other trainers at the royal academy had attempted to resolve this problem but without success, even though these were some of the most elite riders in the world (and yes, non-injurious force was attempted)! Do you know who won? The horse, and it was turned out to pasture. A rare but telling example of just how strong (and strong-minded!) these beautiful animals that we call both friend and companion are.

If a horse does not want to race there is no amount of persuasion that will change that horse’s mind. I’ve seen horses that don’t want to race—and we don’t race them! Not every thoroughbred is born with racing on their mind but the vast majority of them are, just like not every horse bred to be an eventer, wants to event, and likewise with dressage and every other discipline in which a team effort must occur. Our horses that race, love to race, and we love to watch them—even help them—achieve their best form.

A good task for PETA

Look, if PETA really wants to clean up their act and become the self-professed savior of animals that they call themselves, they should start with putting their efforts toward banning puppy mills. Right now, with regard to dogs, the majority of PETA’s efforts are going toward simply euthanizing every stray dog that comes into one of their so called “shelters”, including well-loved (but lost) family pets being euthanized within hours of intake and without being allowed a waiting period for their owners to find them.

According to the Humane Society’s website there are upwards of 10,000 puppy mills churning out dogs every day—many of which will either never see the light of day or will eventually end up on the street, in a shelter, and then eventually euthanized by organizations like PETA.

In fact, the Humane Society states that more than 194,000 dogs “are kept solely for breeding in USDA-licensed facilities. Sadly, a license is not a guarantee of a breeder’s quality.” Nor is buying from a licensed facility any kind of a guarantee about a dog’s life. Some of their “breeding stock” never see the light of day and are kept in tiny and filthy pens and crates. Inbreeding is rampant and deformities and other life limiting and life threatening illnesses abound due to extreme neglect. And yet, two million puppies are sold each year from these puppy mills.

I have dogs—two of them. Both are rescues and one came from the Humane Society. I couldn’t imagine buying a “designer dog” when there are so many wonderful dogs in need of a good home and, yet; PETA wants to pick on us? Why is that? Perhaps because that’s where the money is and PETA likes their bottom line. It’s nasty business going into a puppy mill. Have you ever seen one? Google it.

Statistics on PETA, self professed “savior” of animals

Using public records gathered from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, over the last 21 years, PETA’s kill rate comes in at an astounding average of 85%. PETA’s average rate of adoption over the last 21 years tallies in at 7%. According to numerous reports I’ve read on this, including this affidavit from a former PETA employee that states animals were routinely euthanized in a PETA van before they even arrived back at the shelter, most of PETA’s intakes are not at the shelter for more than 24-48 hours before being euthanized.

According to the Center for Organized Research and Education (CORE), an organization that tracks nonprofit activities: “Over a ten year period, PETA spent four times as much on criminals and their legal defense than it has on shelters, spay-neuter programs, and other efforts that actually help animals.” PETA’s direct involvement and financial support of criminal organizations such as SHAC, ALF and ELF is not a secret – these are organizations that the FBI conservatively estimates (according to the article) as having caused more than $43 million in damages with a list that includes breaking into the private homes of (and assaulting) scientists, planting car bombs, cutting brake lines of food delivery trucks, planting fire bombs in restaurants, razing university labs, and the list goes on.

My stomach churns with writing this, and the deeper I dug into my investigation, the more insanity I uncovered. PETA doesn’t “do” constructive discussion, and they certainly don’t “do” reform. Until all animals are “liberated” from humans, the trail of death and destruction they leave behind wont abate—even when that liberation means “freedom” via a twisted definition of euthanasia that PETA delivers even to perfectly healthy and happy animals.

But it doesn’t end there. As I read through endless lawsuits (those initiated by PETA and those brought against PETA), the media surrounding one in particular stood out. PETA went so far as to sue Whole Foods (a national natural foods market) for charging more money for meats that were raised the most humanely vs. those that were simply antibiotic-free and hormone-free. Here’s an article from the Humane Society’s blog defending Whole Foods.

Quite frankly, I’m vegetarian but I’m not an extremist. I don’t expect everyone to stop eating meat just because I did five years ago. I shop at Whole Foods, and consider them to fall into a class of non-government organizations (NGOs) that are actively having those tough conversations, and trying new things like their food certifications and their donations to food banks on both a global and local level. These are the types of activities that lead to community-wide change, conservation, humane treatment efforts, and education, and they’re not alone. They’re one of the leaders in this charge by being the change they wish to see.

PETA should be dealt with in the way that bullies are best disempowered—and no, not by ignoring them! PETA is the type of bully that will not simply go away. The only way to nullify their influence is to be a brighter light, a better influence. To spread the word about how we do love our horses and we do care for them.

My call to action – please help racing. We are custodians of the Thoroughbred racehorse!

Sharing stories and photos of newborn foals; yearlings playing in a field; a groom and/or exercise rider lying in the stall with their beloved race horse; off-track Thoroughbreds in a new discipline; a jockey hugging a horse around his neck as they are entering the winner’s circle…across the country, every single one of us who is a horseman, a horse lover and an advocate for the horse, has photos and stories to tell of how important horses are to them, and how important they are to their horse’s lives as well!

Donna having a special moment with Zenyatta

Please post images on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, any of your blogs and other social media outlets of your choice! Show us when you were a child and riding your first horse—or your favorite horse! Sharing stories about how you fell in love with horses and horse racing! If you need ideas, please go to “Juanita Webb” on Facebook (she’ll be the Juanita Webb pictured with a horse—of course) and read her post from Oct. 11, 2019. Or, visit “We Are Horse Racing” on Facebook to see lots of stories, each with a photo, about how people fell in love with horse racing. Susie Raisher’s (Daily Racing Form) photo below is a beautiful example.

Photo credit: Susie Raisher/Daily Racing Form

This is not a time to stand silently and idly by while we watch a bully on their pulpit: the compliant, cynical and fatalistic media and the extremist groups that help them line their pockets. In many cases the media outlets are simply uninformed and, yes, this is to some extent their own fault. However, PETA is handing them a story to tell. What sort of stories are we offering? This is the time to wear your heart on your sleeve. It’s long been respected on the racetrack to keep your emotions in check and stay mum about the people, horses, dogs, and cats that mean the most to you. This is not the time for stoicism—but rather, for activism. Are you with me?


Post Script: I would like to clarify that I am NOT opposed to reputable dog breeders or dog breeding. Our late but beloved Jack Russell Terrier came from a small and reputable dog breeder. These breeders love their dogs as much as we do our horses. Puppy mills are another entity all together and comparing reputable breeders to puppy mill owners is not something I would ever do. Puppy mills hurt the work that reputable breeders actively engage in to preserve and improve the health and disposition of their breeds. I’m sorry to anyone that I offended who is in the business of loving and producing wonderfully bred dogs. I stand WITH you, not against you.


Donna Brothers



Donna is one of the most decorated female jockeys of all time. Now retired from race-riding, she is currently an award winning sports analyst and commentator for NBC, and the author of the book, "Inside Track: Insider's Guide to Horse Racing”, which is now in its second printing. When she’s not on location, or in meetings, you can find her writing, reading, traveling and spending time with her husband Frank and her two dogs.


  • Gail Ruffu

    PETA isnt killing our young horses used for racing. The horse racing community is killing the horses and the sport. The silence of the “good” people re: completely avoidable race horse suffering within the horse racing community is to give their ongoing Consent. Their Silence/Consent for their colleague’s irresponsible treatment of the young horses used for racing is way too widely accepted as “OK”.
    There are hopeful signs at the Administrative level that the current Horse Racing community is in the fast lane towards revolutionizing their standard of care for their horses i.e. horse whippings and lasix are being wrestled under control. Other fundamental changes are past due. For example, 2- yr-olds working out and racing are contraindicated by the CHRB’s POST MORTEM STUDIES (1990-2020)*. Public Outrage is substantially important in the drive for further humane changes in behalf of the thousands of young horses used for racing.
    *”2-year-olds are more likely to suffer broken bones leading to death than older horses.”
    Protest Breeders’ Cup, Inc. profiting from 2-year-old baby colts and fillies races. Call, text, and post your protest of Breeders’ Cup’s 2-year-old races on all your SOCIAL MEDIA (FACEBOOK, TWITTER ETC.)sites today, tomorrow, and again every day until they announce this decision.

    • Donna Brothers

      Hello Gail,

      Please allow me to address all of your well-founded concerns.

      Your comment: “PETA isnt killing our young horses used for racing. The horse racing community is killing the horses and the sport. The silence of the “good” people re: completely avoidable race horse suffering within the horse racing community is to give their ongoing Consent. Their Silence/Consent for their colleague’s irresponsible treatment of the young horses used for racing is way too widely accepted as “OK”. You are correct, PETA is more in the business of killing cats and dogs—not so much in the business of rehoming them. It’s just “easier” and “cleaner” for PETA if they just euthanize and they do so in massive numbers.”

      My reply: Horse racing, on the other hand, is improving their record of safety year after year:

      An analysis of data from the 12th year of reporting to the Equine Injury Database (EID) shows a decrease in the rate of fatal injury in 2020 (1.41 per 1,000 starts) compared to 2019 (1.53 per 1,000 starts). The 2020 rate of fatal injury is the lowest number since the EID started collecting data in 2009. The risk of fatal injury in 2020 declined 7.8% from 2019 and 29.5% overall since 2009.

      Statistical Summary from 2009 to 2020

      2009: 2.00
      2010: 1.88
      2011: 1.88
      2012: 1.92
      2013: 1.90
      2014: 1.89
      2015: 1.62
      2016: 1.54
      2017: 1.61
      2018: 1.68
      2019: 1.53
      2020: 1.41

      Based on the 2020 data, 99.86% of flat racing starts at the racetracks participating in the EID were completed without a fatality.

      Your comment: “There are hopeful signs at the Administrative level that the current Horse Racing community is in the fast lane towards revolutionizing their standard of care for their horses i.e. horse whippings and lasix are being wrestled under control. Other fundamental changes are past due. For example, 2- yr-olds working out and racing are contraindicated by the CHRB’s POST MORTEM STUDIES (1990-2020)*. Public Outrage is substantially important in the drive for further humane changes in behalf of the thousands of young horses used for racing.”

      My reply: Thank you for acknowledging that there are hopeful signs. As for racing 2 year olds, the science does not support your opinion.

      The Jockey Club initiated a study on this and extracted one-year windows at five-year intervals, using the years 1975 through 2000 as data sets. Horses were divided into the categories “raced as two-year-olds” and “raced, but not as two-year-olds.”

      The data shows that horses that raced as 2-year-olds raced many more times in their lifetime in each of the years examined when compared to horses that did not race until after their 2-year-old season.

      It is absolute on all the data sets that the training and racing of 2-year-old Thoroughbreds has no ill effect on the horses’ race-career longevity or quality. In fact, the data would indicate that the ability to make at least one start as a 2-year-old has a very strong positive affect on the longevity and success of a racehorse.

      I could on and on with this research but you get the idea.

      I do not take issue with people protesting for the betterment of horse care. I’m a huge proponent of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition and the Horse Racing Safety and Integrity Act. I take issue with two things with PETA: One, the fact that they act like they are holier than thou while mass-murdering dogs and cats on a daily basis. And, two, they will admit that their ultimate goal is not to make horse racing safer but to ban it all together. Horse racing and every other horse sport for that matter.

      Look, I don’t have a fish aquarium and, quite frankly, have never understood the intrigue, the value, the fascination of watching fish swim in a bowl. But that doesn’t make it wrong for the people who do love watching fish swim in a bowl. I suppose I could “judge” that it’s wrong for these people to keep these fish confined to this small bowl and go on and on about how they are limiting their opportunities for a fulfilling life experience.

      However, when it comes to horses, I know that their lives have been enriched because of their relationship to humans and that they have not been “enslaved” for our whims and desires. Anyone who’s ever worked with horses knows full well that this is a symbiotic relationship.

      Happy to discuss anytime.

      Warm regards,


  • Rich Peterson

    Wow, Donna, I can’t believe you replied so quickly; but it’s easy to believe how thoughtful and on point you were. I had indeed heard that HSUS was not affiliated with local humane societies, who were generally the good guys. And while you did not specifically mention HSUS by name, you did capitalize Humane Society – but then when I clicked the link to the blog post defending Whole Foods against PETA’s idiotic and counter-productive suit against Whole Foods, I saw that it was indeed HSUS. So yeah, they’re not nearly as evil as PETA, but not a good place to donate money to help animals. Your local humane society or Animal Rescue League, or many other horse rescues (especially Thoroughbred rescues like ,, as well as other local rescues), are a much wiser choice. You just went up another couple of notches in my opinion, and you were already pretty far up there. It’s funny about spending a lot of time with horses, they tend to make you a better person. But it’s also strange how easy it is to find real scumbags in the world of horse dealers, owners, and trainers (e.g. Barney Ward, the guys who stole Shergar, and the guys who killed Alydar, as well the many shady characters you see reported on facebook). I guess the reality is that time spent with horses tends to influence you in the direction of becoming a better person, but there’s no guarantee it will make you a good one – and when money is involved, even pretty good people can sink pretty low. You radiate the kindness and goodness that is mostly prevalent in the horse world, resulting from the influence of many horses, and may God bless you.

    • Donna Brothers

      Rich, thanks for your feedback. There’s a saying that goes something like: “Horses build character” but I disagree. I believe horses REVEAL character. The good people see their flaws through their work with the horses and work to become a better person. The bad ones take advantage of an innocent animal and we see it with all animals–both domesticated and wild. Great list of aftercare orgs too but you can always be sure that an aftercare organization is doing what they should be doing if they are TAA accredited. The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance inspects and reinspects these aftercare facilities–something that is usually not possible for us to do ourselves. As for USHS, I still support the Kentucky Humane Society but I do not make donations to the national organization.

  • Rich Peterson

    I’ve always been a fan of your commentary and interviews at the triple-crown races, but had no idea you had a blog, especially not such a wonderfully thoughtful, well-informed, and well-written one! I’ve always loved horses and have had the privilege to own two OTTBs (got my first at 44 years old). Always loved all animals, but I’m not a collector, with just two cats in addition to my current horse Harlan Knight who is now 23. Absolutely no surprise about PETA, I always comment when I see anything on facebook suggesting that they protect animals. But I’m puzzled/confused by your apparent support for HSUS. For several years, I’ve been under the impression that they were very much aligned with PETA, having been persuaded by and some youtube video parodies of their TV ads. Do you personally know that they are effective advocates for animals, and use their funding primarily toward that end? The biggest knock I’ve heard isn’t so much that they push euthanasia like PETA does, but rather that so much of their donations go toward administration/salaries and politics. But recently, as a result of reading this, I’ve read that their detractors try to paint them as not using donations to benefit animals because they don’t fund animal shelters directly; but that their spending on helping animals and shelters through education and legislation is effective. Just wondering what you think. And thanks for writing the article, a great balance of facts and feelings!

    • Donna Brothers

      Rich, we live and we learn. First of all, thanks for the kind words and compliments and for even stating your objections kindly. So refreshing! It was only after writing the article that I found out that the HSUS is not the same as my local Humane Society (from which I adopted one of my two dogs). I suppose I could, maybe even should, go back into the article and change some of the wording but I never came out and asked people to support the HSUS. That said, I clearly did put them in a different category than PETA and I have since had people tell me that the HSUS is just “PETA in suits”. I do not believe that HSUS directly euthanizes as many animals as PETA does but they do offer financial support to PETA and that’s really all we need to know. I have also learned that your local Humane Society is NOT the same as HSUS and that when you donate directly to them, those $$$ go directly toward shelters and animal care and welfare in your area. In any case, thanks for your message and, more than that, thanks for being an animal lover but NOT an animal collector! I bet your Harlan Knight is a lucky guy.

      Be well,


  • Karen Sewell

    Donna, with apologies for the late response, I just want to say WELCOME to Saratoga! You will love having a place here! Thanks again for writing this wonderful piece, I would love to see it in The NY Times next time they print another negative op-ed. Happy Holidays! See you ‘round town 😊

  • sharon Rosenblum

    “I even watched the head-on to be sure that he did not push Mongolian Groom out and, from the angles I saw, he did not. Am I missing something?” i keep answering your question about rosario but it keeps not getting posted-in a nutshell-If there had been an objection it would have been upheld. i believe the technical term is “herding”. this was a great horse that did not deserve to be caught up in the mess that is cali racing

    • Donna Brothers

      Sharon, thanks for your persistence! My website’s server crashed and they had to move my entire website to another server. Guessing the issues you experienced were related to that move. The move is done now though so should be fine going forward. While “herding” is discouraged, a horse has to be taken up or checked by the jockey in order for the number to come down. Cordero mastered this move years ago knowing that a horse will not willing run into another horse and so if he could just move out, ever so slightly, as another horse was approaching him (but before it got there), he could impede their progress without the other jockey ever having to “check”. It’s a fine line, granted… but at the end of the day, herding is not an automatic DQ or even an automatic inquiry.

    • Donna Brothers

      Sharon, I’m not sure what your point is. I’ve seen this race reply multiple times and the injury to Mongolian Groom breaks my heart each time. It’s easy when you’re watching from home and can hit “replay” instantly and you’re focused on one thing. But, of course, the announcer didn’t even see it and I cannot see the race from where I sit on my horse so if the announcer doesn’t mention it, and our hosts did not see it, I don’t know about it. And, of course, the winning jockey was in front of the injured Mongolian Groom so he didn’t know about it either. So again… your point?

  • Judy Burkhart

    Donna, I knew I didn’t like PETA, but now I totally detest them. I grew up with horses and dogs and cats. They were my greatest friends.
    As for the racing industry, I am becoming disgusted with their harping on getting rid of Lasix. to satisfy people who know jack squat about the subject. I don’t know if you remember, but when Silver Charm went to Dubai and won, they said he bled so bad without the lasix that they thought he wouldn’t make it. It took forever to get the bleeding stopped. Maybe someone should start a campaign to stop using inhalers for asmatics at racetracks because it helps them breathe and allows them to get to the betting windows at their normal pace. I know that sounds bad, but to me lasix and the inhalers are the same, not a performance enhancer. but a medicine to help a person or animal breathe normally.

    • Donna Brothers

      I love your analogy, Judy, with the asthma inhalers! And I agree. We DO need to improve public perception about this “race day drug” as it is frequently called but using the asthma analogy is a good place to start since even the athletes in the Olympics can be approved for inhalers and such in cases of asthma. Thanks for your feedback!

      Be well, Donna

  • Paul Ainsworth

    Donna, I appreciate this very much and agree with you for the most part. PETA is a horrible organization that preys on good people’s emotions to advance their agenda. As a former Marine Corps MWD handler, the bond I had with my dog is one that very few people will ever understand. The training that we received gave us the tools to do our job, saving hundreds of civilian and military lives. The bond we had, his heart and unwavering courage keep us both doing that job in some of the most brutal conditions on earth. This is something that PETA and their followers will never ever understand! I believe the same is true for those who truly love and are passionate about horse racing. The training for both Jockey and Horse athlete are the tools to run and succeed, but the heart, the bond and love of the sport elevate that to levels that most people will never experience, again something that PETA will never get! I do wish however that the organizations involved work harder to ensure that these athletes are not being commodified. I believe the vast majority of the owners would never run a horse that they knew was not 100% but I think there are those that regard the horse athletes as commodities and expect results, no matter what. I recently read an article about a new owner, his name escapes me, who had left the commodities trading industry and decided to try his “luck” with horse racing. He straight up said in the interview, I do not fall in love with any of the horses, I am into this to make money and have,”fun”. These people and their attitudes will be the undoing of the sport that many owe their livelihoods to and that the rest of us are so passionate about. I understand this is a business just like the NFL or NBA, I also understand that horse racing’s most valuable assets are the horse athletes and considering them commodities will only help validate PETA’s false and outrageous claims. This must be entirely about the athletes first, 2 and 4 legged, only then will the business aspect continue to grow and the safety for everyone involved will no longer be an issue. Thank you again very much!

  • Karen Sewell

    Donna your argument is so well thought out and beautifully written. The racing industry surely needs prominent voices like yours presenting the facts just now while under PETA’s attack. In this day of instant news we see or hear every negative thing the second it happens, while the good stuff generally goes on unnoticed. I live in Saratoga, and one of my favorite things is to take morning coffee down to the Oklahoma track to watch gate-training where the special bond between horse and human is obvious with each gentle coax and bit of praise! I fear that so many people are absorbing PETAs rants without ever having a look behind the headlines to see and hear the actual facts, but know that articles such as this can help to clear the misinformation fog. Kudos!

    • Donna Brothers

      Thanks, Karen! I appreciate the kind words and, even more, your obvious love of horses and horse racing.

      By the way, my husband and I purchased a condo in Saratoga last year and, like you, we love it there! (Our primary residence is still in KY though). Hope to see you around town–please say Hi if you see me!

      Be well,


  • Janet Daugherty

    Thank you sooo much for this article! I’ve been around and loved horses for my whole life! I’ve been blessed to be able to work on a race horse farm in Lexington and have seen the love and care that goes on behind the scenes at the track! The owner that I worked for loved his horses and treated them extremely well!
    Thank you again for what your doing for the horses!

  • Jenny

    You had me right up until you started denigrating commercial dog kennels. You still don’t fully understand the Animal Rights movement. PETA and the HSUS are of one and the same mind. You are able to see and understand the lies spread about your animal enterprise, horses, but you think these groups are telling the truth about other animal enterprises? You know the M.O. of PETA is to spread emotion-laden lies to bully the public, so you need to understand that they are willing to do the same with dogs bred in commercial kennels.
    You can’t beg for public support of your animal enterprise while throwing others under the bus. The only way to push back against the AR is for ALL animal enterprises- dog breeders, cat breeders, circuses, zoos, rodeos, agriculture- to band together in solidarity and push back together. 99.9% of us love and care for our animals.

    • Donna Brothers

      Hi Jenny,

      It was never my intent to offend anyone who breeds dogs responsibly. I do hope you continued to read to the end so that you read my post script:

      Post Script: I would like to clarify that I am NOT opposed to reputable dog breeders or dog breeding. Our late but beloved Jack Russell Terrier came from a small and reputable dog breeder. These breeders love their dogs as much as we do our horses. Puppy mills are another entity all together and comparing reputable breeders to puppy mill owners is not something I would ever do. Puppy mills hurt the work that reputable breeders actively engage in to preserve and improve the health and disposition of their breeds. I’m sorry to anyone that I offended who is in the business of loving and producing wonderfully bred dogs. I stand WITH you, not against you.

  • Susan Elwood

    Thank you for this well researched and written article. PETA is not only a bully but despicable animal haters. This message needs to get out to mass media because you are right that the news only reports the bad the stuff. One horse had to be tragically euthanized in the Breeders Cup and that was the only thing that was reported in the news-nothing about all the horses that trained there and ran and came from all over safely and ran their hearts out. Keep working and fighting the good fight.

  • Peggy Pate

    Thank you Donna. This article is awesome. So many people are so judgmental when they have no idea what they are talking about and do not want to educate themselves about the thoroughbred industry. The love and dedication for the horses is monumental. I know the love and passion you have for these horses, which started at a very young age. I know you can make a difference speaking out. Thank you for everything you do. Peggy.

  • Sara

    The US horse racing industry is corrupt and evil (triple crown, Olympic, etc), but that doesn’t mean racing your horse is also evil. There are plenty of local and state organizers that enforce rules to keep the horse safe and happy and do not tolerate the abuse that runs rampant in the big name organizations that are only in it for money. And there are many rescue groups who focus on performance horses that have been thrown away by the foal Mills that supply the meat grinder that is the triple crown, and get them adopted by owners, who still intend to enter performance classes with them, but who are loving and humane. PETA on the other hand, has always adopted the view that an animal is better off dead than domesticated. They murder perfectly healthy animals, and no one has the balls to shut them down.

    • Donna Brothers

      Sara, we’ll have to agree to disagree about some of your statements and accusations but I will agree that we can do better. I’m optimistic that the newly formed Thoroughbred Safety Coalition (founding members: Breeders’ Cup, Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Del Mar, The Stronach Group and the NYRA) will begin to move the needle a great deal.

    • Donna Brothers

      Sharon, perhaps we did not see the race the same. I saw him get himself into trouble a couple of times but did not see him interfere with anyone else. I even watched the head-on to be sure that he did not push Mongolian Groom out and, from the angles I saw, he did not. Am I missing something?

  • Jim Jolley

    Thank you!
    I’m glad that someone has the diligence and background that you have wrote this. I’ve known you since you were a toddler and you have shown how PETA is a horrible organization. Touche!

  • Gerard Apadula

    PETA are bullies, I couldn’t agree more. I so glad you bring this to light. Great job Ms. Brothers.

    I also really enjoy your media/T.V. work as you are clearly a horseman/woman through and through.

  • Dixie Barrera

    This is an absolutely wonderful and informative article . The horse community has to start doing not just making complaints about Peta. They are A vicious and dangerous group. We have to do more than holding signs and The Jockey Club needs to stand up and do what they were meant to do. Why don’t we have Billboards like Australia is doing to promote our industry. This is imperative. I know I have personally been targeted be fore. Thank you Donna for being at the forefront. Maybe owners and people who love horse. Racing will wake up. God bless the people who ARE doing their best to make horse lovers wake up and see what is happening.?

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