How the 'Luck' Lawsuits Improved Animal Treatment On Set


Whistleblower calls have quadrupled since HBO's ill-fated racing drama was canceled after three horse deaths; now during shooting, activists claim, "It's 2 percent safer being an animal than being a human."

This story first appeared in the Aug. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

First, the HBO horse-racing drama starring Dustin Hoffman was canceled in March 2012 after three horse deaths (and low ratings). Then fired American Humane Association official Barbara Casey -- who had blown the whistle, alleging the horses were fatally mistreated -- brought a wrongful-termination lawsuit against AHA and HBO in January. Now Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis says she will probably let HBO off the hook and dismiss their case. All well and good for the humans (except Casey), but has anything changed for animals?

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Perhaps. Both AHA and PETA, rival animal-rights groups, say Luck improved Hollywood animal safety. "Whistleblower calls have quadrupled since Luck," says PETA senior vp communications Lisa Lange. "We have to hold AHA's feet to the fire. They're too cozy with filmmakers." (AHA monitoring is funded by SAG-AFTRA.) AHA CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert counters with its list of improved safeguards: "Post-Luck, we launched our first scientific advisory committee, added standards and had our first roundtable of unions, guilds, studios, production houses and labor attorneys." Newly installed AHA medical officer Dr. Kwane Stewart adds: "We calculated our safety rating at 99.98 percent in December 2012; Lone Ranger was 100 percent. When AHA is on set, it's 2 percent safer being an animal than being a human."