HBO Sued Over Treatment of Horses on 'Luck'

Network covered up animal deaths, complaint alleges

Luck
Gusmano Cesaretti
Nick Nolte in the HBO series 'Luck'
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HBO faces a lawsuit alleging that the network covered up negligent treatment resulting in the deaths of several horses on the now-canceled show Luck, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The charge comes from Barbara Casey, a former director of production at the American Humane Association's film and television unit, who monitored the treatment of animals on the show that starred Dustin Hoffman and revolved around life at a California race track. Along with the network and Luck's producer Stewart Productions, Casey is also suing the AHA (where she worked for 13 years) for wrongful termination in retaliation for her attempt to report criminal activity. 

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Luck was canceled last March after a horse was killed during production, but Casey's complaint alleges that various abuses had been going on for months, and claims that HBO pressured the AHA into covering them up to save time and money, and minimize disruptions to the production schedule. 

Casey's suit lists several alleged instances of animal cruelty including drugging horses to perform, using sick horses unsuited for work and the intentional misidentification of horses so that neither the AHA nor other safety representatives could track the animals' medical histories. Along with the horse killed in March, the suit claims that three others died: a horse named Outlaw Yodeler on April 30th, 2010, retired racehorse Marc's Shaddow on March 29th, 2011, and Hometrader during the summer of 2011.

The suit alleges that a necropsy report for Marc's Shaddow supposedly revealed degenerative arthritis and other diseases that made him unsuited for filming race scenes; and Casey says the AHA told her "not to document [Hometrader's] death because he was killed during a summer hiatus from filming and therefore 'did not count.'" 

In a statement, HBO 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."