Today, a news headline read: “A four-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus.”  Imagine the shock in the global horse-racing industry if the report had said that Galileo or Tapit had contracted Covid – 19.

Nadia, a four-year-old tiger at the Bronx Zoo, is believed to be the first animal in the United States infected with Covid – 19.  Veterinarians believe that she contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zoo keeper.  Six other cats are also now infected.

Thoroughbreds are the only major horse breed whose registries won’t register AI-bred horses, requiring that pregnancies be by a stallion covering a mare.  As the Tigers at the Bronx Zoo vividly demonstrate, putting humans and animals in close proximity to one another is an invitation for possibly deadly consequences, and natural cover exacerbates the risk.

Transporting mares to stallion stations exponentially increases the risks of coronavirus transmission, either mare-to-stallion or human-to-horse (or vice versa).  Further, natural cover is likely a recipe for starting a pandemic among the Thoroughbred horse population worldwide. 

With over two months left in the Northern Hemisphere breeding season, the various Jockey Clubs should, on an emergency basis, waive the natural cover rule and allow—even mandate—AI breedings. Not doing so violates scientifically proven social-distancing and stay-sheltered guidelines and endangers human handlers and prize horses.

Now is not the time to foolishly adhere to tradition, when lives hang in the balance.

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