HBO Sued Over Unreported Animal Cruelty During ‘Luck’ Production

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HBO is facing a lawsuit concerning unreported animal abuse occurring on set of its cancelled horseracing drama Luck.

In March of last yearHBO confirmed its decision to cancel the racehorse drama starring Dustin Hoffman Luck after only its first season. Although they promised safety of the animals was their first priority, throughout the production of the nine episodes, Paste Magazine reports several of their horses died during filming.

Recently, a lawsuit has been filed claiming both the network and its animal rights supervising committee, the American Humane Association, may have covered up even more animal abuse that had occurred behind the scenes. The Hollywood Reporter reveals the official document. Barbara Casey, who had worked on the set of Luck as the Director of Production in the AHA’s Film and Television Unit, is suing HBO for multiple counts of unreported animal abuse. She had allegedly been pressured to keep her lips sealed on the matter under threat of being let go from the team, and was eventually wrongfully fired for alerting authorities.

“In order to save time and money…minimize any disruption of its production schedule…rather than fully cooperate with AHA, continued to engage in and/or direct animal abuse and cruelty,” Casey states. Among the charges, she recalls underweight, sick, and retired racehorses being “drugged to perform.” Moreover, another horse, Hometrader, was killed, but because it was during a summer hiatus, his passing “did not count.”

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Cavalia’s horses take the spotlight in new show Odysseo

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Quebec theatre producer Normand Latourelle is back with Odysseo, the newest production of his equestrian and performing arts troupe Cavalia.

The latest large-scale circus extravaganza from the Cirque du Soleil veteran features 60 horses and 20 acrobats performing together under the largest touring tent in the world. It opens in Toronto on Tuesday after a successful run in Miami.

An Odysseo actor appears on horseback. ‘We take the time to train the horse,’ says Cavalia artistic director Normand Latourelle. ‘This is the most beautiful animal on earth.’ (Canadian Press)

Latourelle formed his company after leaving Cirque about a decade ago. “I was very attracted by the aesthetic of the horse,” he told CBC News.

“This is the most beautiful animal on earth.”

While many of today’s circus troupes have stopped incorporating animals — in part due to concerns over how they are treated — Latourelle is proud of his company’s work with its equine stars.

“We take the time to train the horse,” he said. “We don’t hit the horse with the whips. We do use some sticks to give commands for the horse to understand — go backward, go [forward] — but we don’t use spurs… The bits we have are soft bits.”

Cavalia’s care for its horses is noteworthy, as other entertainment productions have drawn criticism for its treatment of animals. A recent, prominent example is the high-profile HBO racetrack drama Luck, which was cancelled early in its run following the deaths of three horses featured on the show.

The dazzling spectacle of Odysseo is thanks to the sheer size of the 27,000 square foot stage, which gives the horses enough space to run, and not because the animals are forced to perform dangerous stunts, Latourelle says. “I said if ever we have to abuse the animal to do a show, I will stop.”

Equestrian journalists who have visited the show seemed impressed by the treatment of the horses. Still, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will send an officer to the show to ensure the horses are receiving the proper care.

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Dustin Hoffman’s Axed Show Luck Hit With New Animal Cruelty Complaints

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Producers behind Dustin Hoffman‘s axed horse-racing drama Luck have been hit with fresh animal cruelty complaints from activists at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

Dustine Hoffman

David Milch and Michael Mann ceased production on the Hbo show in March (12) after a horse was humanely put down following an accident at the studio’s stables. It was the third equine death since filming began at California’s Santa Anita racetrack.

Peta bosses celebrated the series cancellation after weeks of campaigning, but their joy at the show’s end has been tinged with sadness after uncovering further claims of animal cruelty related to the programme.

Animal rights chiefs filed legal papers with the Los Angeles District Attorney‘s Office and the California Veterinary Medical Board on Thursday (03May12), alleging, among other charges, that horses were underfed to save money and some were tranquillised to keep them docile for filming.

Senior Vice President of Peta, Lisa Lange, tells The Hollywood Reporter, “These documents appear to reveal what Luck executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann have repeatedly denied: that horses were mistreated and endangered on a daily basis. Hbo says… it lost $35 million (£22 million) with the cancellation of Luck, but the horses paid a much bigger price. The authorities can take action now to send a message that cruelty to animals for the sake of ‘entertainment’ – or for any reason – will not be tolerated.”

Network executives have previously denied several animal cruelty allegations, insisting they worked closely with racing industry experts and members of the American Humane Association to implement safety protocols that went “above and beyond” typical filming standards.

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PETA files new complaints against HBO’s race track series ‘Luck’ alleging severe mistreatment of horses on the set

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HBO series canceled in March following death of third horse

LOUISVILLE — The animal rights group PETA has filed new complaints with the Los Angeles district attorney‘s office and with the California Veterinary Medical Board alleging severe mistreatment of horses on the set of HBO’s race track series “Luck,” which was canceled in March following the death of a third horse.

PETA, in a press release, claims it obtained emails and memos from the American Humane Association through a whistleblower who provided evidence of apparent violations of both AHA guidelines and state anti-cruelty laws. Allegations include that horses were purposefully underfed and regularly drugged from the filming of the pilot episode through the second season.


“These documents appear to reveal what ‘Luck’ executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann have repeatedly denied: that horses were mistreated and endangered on a daily basis,” said PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange. “HBO says today it lost $35 million with the cancelation of ‘Luck,’ but the horses paid a much bigger price. The authorities can take action now to send a message that cruelty to animals for the sake of entertainment or for any reason will not be tolerated.”

HBO responded to the new complaints in a statement: “The safety and welfare of the horses was always of paramount concern. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, working closely with American Humane Association to review and improve protocols on an ongoing basis, it was impossible to guarantee no further accidents would occur. Accordingly, we reached the difficult decision to cease production.”

According to PETA, the whistleblower’s documents said the violations all took place under the direction of trainer Matthew Chew, who was hired by Milch’s production company and with the apparent knowledge of veterinarian Dr. Heidi Agnic.

Some of the allegations: To save money, horses were underfed. One horse was an alarming 300 pounds underweight and was allegedly covered with a blanket during filming. Sick horses were regularly used in filming. Some sick horses disappeared from the set without explanation, prompting Chew to be warned he could be charged with neglect. Improperly or unprepared horses were used in racing sequences and some were regularly tranquilized to keep them docile.

“There was a horse, who was severely underweight and we refused to let him work until he was healthy enough to work again,” said Mark Stubis, a spokesman for the AHA.

Other documents allege that Chew attempted to deceive humane officers by providing false names for horses in attempt to keep officers from discovering the ones who were unfit. The situation was so dangerous that the AHA-hired humane officers urged AHA executives to recommend the dismissal of Chew, said PETA.

PETA claimed there was no evidence that the AHA acted on its officers’ advice.

“We did recommend a different trainer but they (HBO) were already contractually tied to Chew before we were on board,” Stubis said. “We were pulling horses and not allowing any unfit horses by any means perform.”

Stubis also said that after the second death last year, all of the horses had their legs X-rayed to see if there were any underlying conditions.

In addition, the horses were micro-chipped to easily identify them and they underwent random blood checks

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TV Review – HBO Series: Luck – Working With Horses – AHA

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“I came across the following & found it very interesting”.

“As a horse owner & rider I was horrified when I found out that 2 horses from the new series, Luck, had to be euthanised after fatal falls; then sadly a third death occurred! Click this link Luckto see my other post on the subject. The following is a more in-depth look at the incidents, how mechanical horses & cameras were used & how the American Human Association monitors T.V shows & films etc.”

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.

On the set of "Luck" TV series about horse racing

The horses were checked immediately afterwards by the on site veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable. The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia.

An American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ was monitoring the animal action on the set when the incidents occurred and observed the veterinarian on the set perform the soundness checks and approve the horses, prior to racing them. A full investigation and necropsy was conducted for each accident immediately afterwards.

American Humane Association is deeply saddened by the deaths of these two wonderful animals. Protecting the welfare of the animals we serve is not only our mission, it is the passion of each and every one of us who works for this program. 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.

Luck is a series about the horse racing industry. Throughout the series there are numerous racing sequences as well as milder action with horses in barns, being walked, groomed, bathed, etc. Some of the racing scenes appear to be very intense; horses are seen running at fast speeds, and at times close to one another and the railing that surrounds the track.

The extraordinary amount of horse work incorporated in this plotline called for several American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representatives™ to ensure that all guidelines were met, including the additional precautions, and all the animal action was monitored.

The racing sequences were filmed at Santa Anita Racetrack in Southern CA. An American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representative™ was present when the vet checked each horse before filming began, after each racing scene, and at the end of each day. All grounds were inspected before each race and cast, crew and takes were limited. Mandatory daily safety meetings were held each morning before filming began. The horses that appeared in the race sequences were racehorses that were conditioned to this racing type of environmentt. Some sequences required trained movie horses to work with specially designed camera cars.

Read more here via TV Review – HBO Series: Luck | No Animals Were Harmed.

American Humane Association’s On-Set Oversight
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BBC News – HBO cancels Dustin Hoffman drama Luck after horse death

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BBC NewsHBO cancels Dustin Hoffman drama Luck after horse death

US network HBO has cancelled its lavish TV horse-racing drama Luck after a third animal was injured and put down during production.

The series, which stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, was filming its second season when the incident happened. In a statement, HBO said it was “with heartbreak” that it was ceasing “all future production” on Luck. Horse Racing is Dangerous

Produced by Michael Mann and David Milch, the series looks at the seedy side of life in US horse-racing.

It sees Oscar-winner Hoffman play a crime kingpin scheming to gain control of a racetrack and introduce casino gambling.It debuted in the US in January and will see its first season finale broadcast on 25 March.

It is currently being shown in the UK on the Sky Atlantic channel.

‘Impossible to guarantee’

The decision to cancel the entire series came one day after filming was suspended pending an investigation into the horse’s death.

 The drama looks at the seedy side of horse racing. “It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series ‘Luck’,” HBO said in its statement.

“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.”

On Tuesday the American Humane Association (AHA) issued the suspension order, pending a “thorough and comprehensive investigation”.

HBO said the horse was being led to a stable by a groom when it reared and fell back, suffering a head injury. The animal was put down at the track in suburban Arcadia, California, where Luck was filming.

Although the AHA – which oversees Hollywood productions – noted the accident did not occur during filming or racing, it issued the demand “that all production involving horses shut down”.

On Tuesday, California Horse Racing Board vet Dr Gary Beck said he had just examined the horse as part of routine health and safety procedures before it was to race later in the day.

“The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground,” Dr Beck said in a statement.

A second vet determined that euthanasia was appropriate, he added.

During filming of the first series in 2010 and 2011, two horses were hurt during racing scenes and were subsequently put down.

via BBC News – HBO cancels Dustin Hoffman drama Luck after horse death.

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