HBO sued for alleged horse abuse


HBOSeveral of the horses used on HBO’s canceled series Luck were drugged, underweight and sick during production, an animal rights worker who oversaw conditions on the show alleges in a lawsuit. Barbara Casey’s suit, filed 12/31, says she was wrongfully fired from her post at the American Humane Association (AHA) after complaining about the conditions horses faced on the drama starring Dustin Hoffmann premiered in January 2012, but was canceled three months later after horses died during production.

The suit claims four horses actually died during the show’s production, not three as previously reported. Horses were “often drugged to perform,” and “underweight and sick horses unsuited for work were routinely used” by producers, her suit alleges. Casey claims the fourth horse, “Hometrader,” was killed in summer 2011 but its demise wasn’t documented because it occurred during a hiatus in filming. The suit also alleges horses used on the HBO series routinely were “intentionally misidentified” so that animal welfare authorities would not be able to monitor their medical histories.

Casey is suing both HBO, which has repeatedly denied abusing horses on the show, and the humane association.

“We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of the production,” HBO wrote in a statement. “Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA.”

“American Humane Association is unable to comment on pending litigation,” Jone Bouman, director of communications for the film and television unit, told USA Today.

Casey’s suit states she urged the humane association to report HBO and producers to authorities for possible animal-cruelty criminal charges.

The association “bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the production defendants’ conduct to the authorities,” the suit states.

Casey served as director of the association’s Film and Television Unit, which oversees animal welfare and often allows a notice to be attached to the end of films and television shows that says no animals were harmed during production. The nonprofit association’s film- and TV-monitoring efforts are paid for through entertainment industry grants, according to the lawsuit.

In the series, Chester “Ace” Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), a career mobster, has just been released from a three-year prison sentence. Gus (Dennis Farina), his long-time friend and driver, has become the owner of “Pint of Plain,” a promising Irish racehorse. Ace immediately begins making plans to take control of the Santa Anita racetrack in Los Angeles, while simultaneously plotting revenge against the ones he holds responsible for sending him to prison.

Casey’s suit seeks unspecified damages.

See the USA Today story here