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Retired racehorse charity sued by NY attorney for neglecting horses

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A charity that takes care of 1,100 retired racehorses has been driven into insolvency and some of its animals have been neglected, are suffering and are underfed, the New York attorney general said in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has taken in far more thoroughbreds than it can afford, according to the lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. Its directors also have ignored repeated warnings and have made "financially irresponsible" transactions by borrowing money to pay debts and by paying vendors and veterinarians late, the suit said.

The attorney general's office wants the directors replaced and a thorough inspection of its horses.

An initial investigation showed that the foundation for years paid boarding farms no more than $3 a day per horse, far less than other rescue groups. That left some horses getting insufficient feed and little or no veterinary care, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

"New York and the nation need the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to succeed. But unfortunately, TRF's board has driven this vital organization into the ground, threatening its mission and the very horses it is supposed to protect," he said.

Foundation Chairman John Moore said the neglect allegations are false, and the horses kept at 30 farms around the U.S. are in good shape.

"We'll pin his ears back with vet reports showing the herd's in fine shape," Moore said of Schneiderman.

The charity's cost is about $3.50 a day per horse, which does not cover farm costs for land, fencing or barns, he said.

"They're taking horses because they want to," he said.

There will be 23,000 more thoroughbreds born this year in the United States. Many won't make it as racehorses, even as others retire, creating "a huge problem," Moore said. The foundation, with its $2.7 million annual budget, solves only a small part of that, he said.

The nonprofit was formed in 1982. The court complaint said nearly 100 of its horses died in 2010 and seeks an order to prevent the foundation from taking on any more animals.

Eight horse farms are at prisons, including New York's Wallkill Correctional Facility, for vocational training programs in equine care and stable management.

According to the complaint, an investigator who visited Wallkill found more than half the horses there needed basic veterinary maintenance including having their hooves trimmed and teeth filed, one had an untreated wound on its leg, and there were inadequate records on medications given to the herd. Six severely underweight horses were transferred earlier to another farm.

Moore said the ongoing investigation has made it harder for the foundation to raise money. He said Wallkill has 55 horses, and the investigators singled out two that were 29 and 32 years old that needed their hooves trimmed and dental work.