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Former American Humane Assn. employee sues AHA, HBO over 'Luck'

January 02, 2013|By Richard Verrier
  • Nick Nolte appears in a scene from the HBO series "Luck." HBO canceled the horse racing series, a drama set at a California racetrack, after a third horse died during the production of the series.
Nick Nolte appears in a scene from the HBO series "Luck." HBO… ( Associated Press / HBO,…)

A former senior employee of the American Humane Assn., the group responsible for the "No Animals Were Harmed" certification on film credits, is suing her former employer, saying she was wrongfully terminated for complaining about the alleged abuse and mistreatment of horses on the set of HBO's ill-fated series "Luck."

In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court this week, Barbara Casey, the former director of production for the AHA's film and television unit, alleged that AHA thwarted her efforts to enforce AHA's animal safety standards and prevent "animal abuse and cruelty" during the filming of "Luck," which shut down in March after three horses were killed.

The horse deaths sparked renewed debate in the industry about the use of animals on film sets and a renewed spotlight on the AHA and its role in safeguarding the welfare of animals.

"American Humane Assn. is unable to comment on pending legal matters,'' a spokeswoman for the charity said on Wednesday.

HBO, also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said: "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. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."

In her lawsuit, Casey alleges horses used during the production were often drugged, were misidentified so that animal safety representatives could not track their medical histories and were underweight and sick. She cited a necropsy report showing that one horse that died during filming of a March 29, 2011, racing scene had degenerative arthrosis and other pathologies that made him "unsuited for use in filming racing scenes."

To minimize any disruption to the show, Casey further alleges, the AHA allowed HBO to violate the group's safety standards and refused to report abuses to authorities.

"The production defendants engaged in ongoing, systematic and unlawful animal abuse and cruelty toward the horses on the set of 'Luck,'"  the lawsuit says.

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