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Third horse dies at Santa Anita while filming HBO show 'Luck'

Santa Anita Racetrack
Santa Anita Racetrack
Photo by Suzanne / neusuz5 via Flickr Creative Commons

HBO suspended its filming of horses following the third death at Santa Anita Racetrack in connection with the dramatic series "Luck."

A horse was euthanized at the track on Tuesday after the animal reared and fell back, suffering a head injury, NBC LA reports. The horse was being led to a racetrack stable  when it accident occurred, according to HBO.

"Luck," a Dustin Hoffman-starring production in its second season, was already the focus of a PETA complaint. The organization says it sent a notification to local law enforcement to investigate the deaths of two other horses that were hurt in racing scenes and euthanized during the first season of filming in 2010-2011.

Though this week's accident did not occur during filming or racing, The American Humane Association insisted in a statement that a stoppage in the filming of horses, "remain in full effect pending a complete, thorough, and comprehensive investigation." 

HBO defends its treatment of the animals and says their safety protocols exceed film and TV industry standards. In a statement, HBO said it was "deeply saddened" by the horse's death and was working with the AHA on its inquiry.

The animal had just passed inspection by a California Horse Racing Board veterinarian as part of the health and safety procedures. The state racing board medical director said injuries are more common than thought, and that a routine necropsy would be conducted.

PETA vice president Kathy Guillermo says the matter is not closed, and that "all the evidence we have gathered points to sloppy oversight, the use of unfit, injured horses, and disregard for the treatment of thoroughbreds."

An investigation is ongoing.

UPDATE 6:15 p.m. - HBO announced it is shutting down production for good.