SCARBOROUGH – A handful of animal rights advocates stood by the Route 1 entrance to Scarborough Downs on Saturday, holding signs urging passing drivers to vote Nov. 8 against allowing two racinos in the state.

Question 2 on the statewide referendum will ask voters whether slot machines should be allowed at a harness racing track within 25 miles of Scarborough Downs and at another in Washington County.

The protesters, members of Falmouth-based Maine Friends of Animals, weren’t anti-gambling advocates. They said they oppose racinos because allowing slot machines at racetracks would help support the harness racing industry, which they believe is inhumane.

“The industry paints this bucolic scene where horses are frolicking in the fields. The reality is much different,” said Robert Fisk Jr., president and director of Maine Friends of Animals.

Fisk said racehorses often spend all but two hours of their day in a stall. He said they get whipped in the face, causing welts and bleeding, and are overbred. Once they pass their prime racing years, he said, some are taken to other countries and slaughtered.

In response to the protest, Scarborough Downs had a veterinarian on hand to refute the animal group’s claims.

Dr. Densie McNitt, who works with horses at Scarborough Downs, said most horses race more than just a couple of years. She pointed to 13-year-old Whitlock N, who was on the track Saturday.

“He’s the favorite, too,” she said.

McNitt said whips are used as aids, not as punishment for the horses. She said a harness driver’s license can be suspended for marking a horse with a whip.

She described a racehorse’s typical day as including a hot bath, brunch, a workout and a grooming.

“We should have a life like a racehorse has,” she said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at:

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