TV network HBO is being sued by Barbara Casey who claims she was unfairly dismissed from horseracing drama Luck.
Luck, which starred Dustin Hoffman, was axed after several animals died.
Barbara Casey, ex-director of the American Humane Association (AHA) film and production unit, says producers “engaged in ongoing, systematic and unlawful animal abuse”.
An HBO statement said precautions were taken “to ensure that our horses were treated humanely”.
Barbara Casey’s lawsuit also accuses the American Humane Association (AHA) of bending to pressure from the TV network “to allow the use of unsuitable horses”.
She said her employment was wrongfully terminated after she threatened to report animal mistreatment.
HBO added in its 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.”
HBO is being sued by Barbara Casey who claims she was unfairly dismissed from horseracing drama Luck
The drama, in which Dustin Hoffman starred as a crime kingpin scheming to gain control of a racecourse, was cancelled last March during filming on its second season.
Several horses were injured and put down, and a statement at the time said it was “with heartbreak that HBO have decided to cease all future production”. It was shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic.
However, Barbara Casey claims the network engaged in efforts to “conceal and cover-up” animal safety violations while filming.
She said HBO “misidentified horses so that the humane officers and/or animal safety representatives could not track their medical histories, experience and/or suitability for use”.
Barbara Casey, who held her position with the AHA for 13 years, claimed officers witnessed horses being “drugged to perform” and “underweight and sick horses unsuited for work [being] routinely used”.
AHA said in a statement to movie website Deadline that it “is unable to comment on this pending legal matter”.
People for the Ethical Treatment of the Animals (PETA) has called for TV and film safety rules to be tightened after two horses were put down during filming for HBO drama Luck.
The animals were injured in the making of the show starring Dustin Hoffman.
PETA said it “repeatedly reached out” to HBO before filming to offer safety advice but was “rebuffed”.
HBO, which worked with the American Humane Association, said both were “committed to ensuring all necessary safety procedures” were in place.
Luck, conceived by NYPD Blue creator David Milch, is billed as “a provocative look at the world of horse racing – the owners, gamblers, jockeys and diverse gaming industry players”.
The AHA said in a statement that the fatal accidents had taken place several months apart – one during the filming of a pilot episode and another during the filming of the seventh show.
AHA’s standard “no animals were harmed” statement was removed from the credits of both episodes.
PETA has called for TV and film safety rules to be tightened after two horses were put down during filming for HBO drama Luck
The AHA said both racehorses “stumbled and fell during short racing sequences”.
“The horses were checked immediately afterwards by the onsite veterinarians and in each case a severe fracture deemed the condition inoperable,” it added.
“The decision was that the most humane course of action was euthanasia.”
It listed a series of precautions taken including that each horse was “limited to three runs per day and was rested in between those runs”.
In a statement released to the New York Observer, HBO said filming was suspended after the second accident “while the production worked with AHA and racing industry experts to adopt additional protocols specifically for horse racing sequences”.
They included “the hiring of an additional veterinarian and radiography of the legs of all horses being used by the production”.
“HBO fully adopted all of AHA’s rigorous safety guidelines before production resumed.”
But, in a blog on its website, PETA said: “Perhaps if producers had considered the proved safety protocols that we would have suggested, these horses would still be alive.”
It added that “two dead horses in a handful of episodes exemplify the dark side of using animals in television, movies, and ads”.
It said it was now in discussions with HBO “about how to prevent even more deaths on the show”.