A lawsuit claims that HBO and a production company mistreated horses on the set of "Luck," and then covered up the abuse for months.
Barbara Casey, director of production in the American Humane Association’s film and TV department, claims HBO and Stewart Production drugged horses and forced underweight and sick horses to work on the series. She is also suing because she claims she was terminating from AHA last January after 13 years for speaking up about the abuse, and that the organization turned a blind eye to it during production.
"Luck," which starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, was cancelled last month after its first season and after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spoke out about at least three horses dying during filming, according to The Hollywood Reporter
PETA takes credit for its complaints sparking the series' cancellation. Kathy Guillermo, a PETA vice president, said she sent an initial complaint about "Luck" to Arcadia police and an animal humane society in nearby Pasadena.
"Three horses have now died and all the evidence we have gathered points to sloppy oversight, the use of unfit, injured horses, and disregard for the treatment of thoroughbreds," Guillermo told the Associated Press, calling for an immediate halt to filming.
To cover up the abuse, producers misidentified the horses so that animal safety representatives couldn't track their medical histories, according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Specifically, a horse named Hometrader died during production and, according to the suit, "AHA told its representatives not to document [Hometrader's] death because he was killed during a summer hiatus from filming and therefore did not count."
Casey claims the incentive was to save money and time, so the companies pressured AHA to allow it to have a free pass in violating animal safety standards.
HBO denies the claims.
"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," HBO said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. "Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."
Phone calls and emails to AHA were unreturned.
When Casey threatened to go to law enforcement officials about the abuse, they unlawfully terminated her, she said.
"AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the Production Defendants' conduct to the authorities," Casey claims in the suit. "AHA instructed Plaintiff not to report such conduct. AHA engaged in efforts to conceal and cover up the production defendants' criminal activities."
Back in November, PETA also got involved during the filming of Warner Brothers' trilogy "The Hobbit,"
when they alleged animals were injured and died due to mistreatment.
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