On appeal from final decision of the New Jersey Racing Commission.
Matthews, Crane and Antell.
This is an appeal from a determination of the New Jersey Racing Commission suspending appellant's license as a horse trainer for a period of ten days.
Appellant does not dispute the facts which were found by the Executive Director of the Racing Commission who acted as a hearing officer. He found, pursuant to a stipulation, that after a race the horse Mighty Marval was found by urinalysis to have been administered a drug known as phenylbutazone. He further found that the trainer had no direct knowledge that the horse had been administered medication and that he had made an attempt to protect the horse by hiring a groom to oversee the horse while he was stabled. Nevertheless, the hearing officer concluded that the trainer violated Racing Commission Rules 14:19 and 20:07, N.J.A.C. 13:70-14.19(a) and N.J.A.C. 13:70-20.7, and recommended suspension. The Racing Commission subsequently adopted the hearing officer's findings of fact and his recommendation.
Appellant argues that the hearing officer misinterpreted the regulation; that his finding was arbitrary and capricious; that the rule of strict liability is unreasonable and if applied as interpreted, it would deprive him of a property right without due process of law. Amicus curiae argues that before any trainer may be suspended for a violation of the rules, it must be found that the trainer either directly administered the drug, knew of the drug's administration or
was negligent in his care of the horse, thus permitting the horse to have been drugged. It, too, raises a due process argument.
Racing Commission Rule 14:19, found in N.J.A.C. 13:70:14.19(a), declares that it is the obligation of all persons charged with the care of a horse to protect the horse from the administration of drugs. The rule provides as follows:
The owner, trainer, groom or any other person who is charged with the custody, care and responsibility of a horse, are all obligated to protect and guard the horse against the administration, or attempted administration, either internally or externally, of any stimulant, depressant, local anesthetic, analgesic, tranquilizer, anti-inflammatory chemical or drug of any kind or description.
Racing Commission Rule 20:07, N.J.A.C. 13:70-20.7, places the primary responsibility for the condition of the horse on the trainer. The rule declares that "A trainer is responsible for the condition of a horse trained by him."
The language employed indicates that the Commission did indeed intend, by adopting the above rules, to place absolute responsibility upon the trainer in situations in which a horse has been administered a drug. That such was the intention of the Commission becomes even more clear from a reading of a companion rule, N.J.A.C. 13:70-20.11. That rule provides in part that
(a) A trainer shall not enter or start a horse that:
3. Has been given in any manner whatsoever, internally or externally, any stimulant, depressant, local anesthetic, tranquilizer, anti-inflammatory or chemical of ...