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HBO halts horse filming after death

TV bosses have stopped filming with horses after the third equine death linked to US racetrack drama Luck.

HBO said it would suspend filming with the animals while the accident, in which a horse had to be put to sleep, was investigated.

It came after the American Humane Association, which oversees Hollywood productions, had issued an immediate demand "that all production involving horses shut down".

"We are also insisting that this stoppage remain in full effect pending a complete, thorough, and comprehensive investigation," it said. It noted that the accident did not occur during filming or racing.

The animal was being led to a Santa Anita Park racetrack stable by a groom when it reared and fell backwards yesterday, suffering a head injury, according to HBO. The horse was put down at the track in suburban Arcadia, where Luck's second season is being filmed.

The series, created by Deadwood and NYPD Blue's David Milch, looks at racing's seedier side. It features Dustin Hoffman as a crime kingpin scheming to gain control of a racetrack and introduce casino gambling.

During season-one filming in 2010 and 2011, two horses were hurt during racing scenes and put to sleep. HBO defended its treatment of the animals, saying it had worked with the American Humane Association and racing industry experts to implement safety protocols that exceed film and TV industry standards.

The humane association's film and TV unit, the group sanctioned and supported by the entertainment industry to protect animals used in filming, called for a production halt at the Santa Anita Racetrack after the second horse's death.

Racing resumed after new protocols were put in place and proved effective, Karen Rosa, the AHA unit's senior vice president, said in February. Dr Gary Beck, a California Horse Racing Board vet, said he had just examined the horse as part of routine health and safety procedures before it was to race later in the day. The horse passed the inspection, the AHA said.

"The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground," Dr Beck said in a statement. An attending vet determined that euthanasia was appropriate, he added.

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