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OTRC: HBO sued over alleged 'Luck' horse abuse cover-up

A horse and Nick Nolte appear in a scene from the HBO series 'Luck' in 2011. (HBO)

HBO is facing a lawsuit from a former American Humane Association (AHA) employee who claims the network and the producers of the TV series "Luck" aided in an alleged animal abuse cover-up.

The former director of production for the AHA's film and television unit, Barbara Casey, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the AHA for wrongful termination, according to court documents obtained by OTRC.com. Casey also cites the network and the show's production company in the lawsuit for aiding in the months-long cover-up with the organization.

In the lawsuit, Casey claims the AHA observed drugged horses, underweight and/or sick horses routinely used for work on the show. She also claims the horses were routinely misidentified by producers so that people responsible for animal safety could not track the medical histories of the horses.

Casey alleges that HBO and Stewart Productions wanted to save time and money and so they attempted to pressure the organization to let them violate the animal safety standards set by the AHA. The organization allegedly went along with the producers over Casey's objections and she was fired in January 2012 in an attempt to prevent her from reporting the violations to authorities.

The horse racing drama series, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, was canceled in March 2012 after the deaths of three horses during production. The animal rights group PETA had sent a complaint to Los Angeles law enforcement following a tip about the accidents from an insider at a California race track.

At the time, the AHA applauded the cancelation saying, "Given the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of a horse on Monday and in light of two other fatalities in 2010 and 2011, this is arguably the best decision HBO could have made."

The AHA has not commented on the suit. However, HBO told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement, "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. Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO, and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA."

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