Thursday, April 14, 2016

Simulcast Gambling on Dog Races is Dying

Gina is Happy That Greyhound Simulcasting is Dying
As the greyhound industry slowly dies, nineteen remaining tracks are being partially propped up by states that don't host races but allow gamblers to bet remotely on dog racing. As a result of this simulcast betting, states that have already outlawed greyhound racing, like Massachusetts, are unfortunately supporting animal cruelty.

Thankfully, greyhound simulcasting is withering. It is falling in virtually every state, with several experiencing catastrophic declines in just the past five years:
This is good news for greyhounds. It also refutes false claims that have been made recently by the industry. Just last month, National Greyhound Association Executive Secretary Gary Guccione told Kansas lawmakers that greyhound racing isn't dying at all because simulcasting is so successful. Obviously his claim is pure fantasy.

Even though greyhound simulcasting is dying, along with the rest of the dog race industry, it is still a problem that needs attention. These states shouldn't support greyhound cruelty, and it's time for them to get out of the dog racing business altogether.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Greyhound Racing Has a Drug Problem

Kiowa Try Thelma tested positive for cocaine in February 2015.
Photo by the Greyhound Breeding and Racing Database.
Over the past two years there have been 75 documented drug violations in the American greyhound racing industry, including violations in every racing state. The vast majority of these drug cases resulted in fines or suspensions.
These are powerful drugs that can harm greyhounds, and we should all be concerned about this constant drum beat of drug positives. These drug violations also call into question the integrity of dog race bets being made across the country.

Greyhound racing in the United States has a drug problem that just won't go away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Irish Board Encourages Breeding as Greyhounds Die

Emily the abandoned greyhound. Photo by the Irish Sun.
For years Ireland has been at the epicenter of a massive greyhound welfare problem. Thousands of greyhound are bred each year in the Republic, and many are sent to compete at British racetracks. Nearly 54,000 Irish bred greyhounds were shipped to British racetracks between 2006 and 2013, and the ultimate fate for many of these dogs is unknown.

In Ireland itself, a large number of dogs are discarded by the racing industry each year. The issue was summarized in 2010 by Michael Watts of Society of Greyhound Vets and Countryside Alliance Ireland:
"We have a large number of young greyhounds that, in the nature of things, are perhaps not handled much, not very socialised and not house trained. In many cases, they do not make good pets. There are a large number of them, and what are we to do with them?"
Similar concerns were raised only months ago by Irish Times Racing Correspondent Brian O'Connor. In a well-reasoned column, O'Connor called for a culture change within the racing industry and specifically highlighted the challenge of greyhound overbreeding:
"The question of overproduction is a particular issue for greyhound racing. A horse produces a single foal every year; a dog can produce a litter of pups every two months. It is much cheaper to maintain a dog until establishing if it can run fast, so the more produced, the more chance of a good runner ...  They can’t all run fast, and the slow ones, and old ones, aren’t all rehomed. So where do they end up? Some will tell you plenty of animals don’t make it to registration in the first place. Of those that do, some are sold and exported, and some unwanted animals get rehomed. Others are, to use the anodyne phrase, 'euthanised' in a proper and professional manner. But those involved in welfare still talk of thousands 'disappearing' each year, with all the sinister connotations implicit in that word."
There certainly are greyhounds that suffer greatly in Ireland after being discarded by the racing industry. In January, an emaciated dog named Emily was dumped in a ditch in County Tipperary after having her racing tattoos burned out with acid and her tailed hacked off. Incredibly, she survived her ordeal.

Enter the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB). Rather than address this serious problem, the industry promoter has released a plan that will make things worse. It has earmarked 250,000 Euros in new funding for a "breeders incentive scheme" as part of a a total industry support plan worth 700,000 Euros. Meanwhile, no new funding whatsoever has been allocated for greyhound welfare. Ironically, this new breeders incentive scheme was announced shortly after a legislative report identified problems with the current Irish stud book, including "ongoing issues concerning the breeding of greyhounds with dogs which were dead for two years or more."

This is a serious miscalculation by the Board. It will not only cause the death of dogs, it will harm the industry in the long run. Rather than ramp up breeding, industry promoters in Ireland should follow their colleagues in Australia, who are decreasing breeding as part of an overall animal welfare plan.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Greyhounds Run Into the Ground at Mexico Track

Three weeks ago, GREY2K USA Board member Charmaine Settle inspected Agua Caliente, the only greyhound racetrack in Mexico. Her inspection follows similar visits to greyhound tracks in Macau, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

Caliente is owned by Jorge Hank Rhon, the controversial former major of Tijuana. Throughout his life Rhon has been plagued by scandal. He has been accused of having links to organized crime, being connected to the murder of an investigative reporter, and participating in the trade of illegal wildlife.

Agua Caliente races dogs that are bred in the U.S. and shipped across the border by American greyhound breeders. Julia Ward, the current President of the National Greyhound Association, is one of the largest owners of dogs currently racing at the Tijuana track.

Here are some of Charmaine's thoughts about what she saw:
"Caliente is a very large, modern facility which houses a casino and simulcasts of various sports, with dogs racing outside. Flamingos and white swans greet you when you approach the massive entrance and when you get inside, large paintings adorn the walls on  your way to the casino."
"The kennels, which are within steps of the casino on the same property, are run down and neglected. This juxtaposition was striking, and unsettling. It continued to bother me long after I had left."
"If you walk out of the track and continue down a ramp to the left you begin to hear all the dogs barking and can see, through trees, a shantytown where the dogs live."
"The kennels looked terribly old, crumbling and dilapidated with some of the roofs looking like they were about to cave in. The kennels appeared to have no windows letting in any light or fresh air. With temperatures approaching a hundred degrees, I can't imagine how hot and miserable the poor dogs must be while they suffer in the confines of their cells."
"I asked questions, and was told that about eighty dogs were used for the matinee that day, and each dog races about three or four times per week."
Sadly, the information Charmaine was provided about race frequency at Caliente appears to be accurate. According to an analysis by GREY2K USA Research Director Matt Read, greyhounds routinely race on little rest at the Mexico track. For example, a dog named Coach Hero has entered in a shocking 413 races since 2011. Nearly half of his races occurred after he received only a single day of rest, and nearly three-quarters of his racing starts occurred after he received two days or less. An examination of other dogs competing at the track shows that Coach Hero isn't the exception. When it comes to racing on little rest, he's the tragic rule.

Coach Hero also highlights the fact that Caliente is a place where American greyhound breeders dump dogs. Even though he's racing in Mexico, Coach Hero is owned by Greg Geter, a top recipient of state dog race subsidies in West Virginia.

A photo Charmaine took of the Caliente kennel compound
Racing dogs on little rest is inhumane and irresponsible. It increases the risk of injury, and can cause a disorder named exertional rhabdomyolysis, in which skeletal muscles begin to break down. According to industry handbook Care of the Racing and Retired Greyhound, this disorder appears in overworked greyhounds, which it defines as "two to three races or trials per week."

The American greyhound breeders who are sending dogs to race in Mexico, including NGA President Julia Ward, should be ashamed of themselves. The very existence of this low end track, where greyhounds are run into the ground, is another reminder that this cruel industry routinely places profits before animal welfare.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vet Missing in Action When Greyhounds Suffer Injuries

Hamici was allegedly absent for Atascocita Tofu's injury
Under Florida state rules, greyhound tracks are required to hire a veterinarian who must "observe the condition of all racing animals immediately prior to, during, and after a race." This provision is intended to ensure the health and welfare of all racing dogs. Of course rules are only as good as their enforcement.

Consider the case of Dr. Hakim Hamici, the primary track veterinarian at Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track. Since 2013, Dr. Hamici has apparently been absent on at least five occasions when a serious greyhound injury occurred:

  • On February 22, 2015, Hamici was absent when a dog named B.L. Rumble collapsed and died after a schooling race. A trainer tried to call Hamici on his cell phone after the dog collapsed, but the call "went directly to voice mail."
  • On December 12, 2013, Hamici was absent when a greyhound named Koothrappali was "badly injured" during a race and had to be carried off the track.

These repeated regulatory failures call the current greyhound vet law into question. Rather than require tracks to employ private veterinarians, other states like Iowa provide state vets who are present during every race. Mandating tracks to hire private vets creates an obvious conflict of interest. It's also a burden on private businesses that are already being forced to conduct races they are losing money on.

Add this to the long list of reforms that Florida should pass to help greyhounds. The dogs need independent regulation from state veterinarians. In the meantime, any vets who fail in their oversight responsibilities should be severely penalized.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dog Track Group Tries to Muzzle Adopted Greyhounds

In Australia, adopted greyhounds must be muzzled at all times in public because of antiquated laws. This government mandate is nonsensical, and makes it more difficult to find homes for greyhounds leaving the racing industry. With an estimated 18,000 racing dogs dying each year across the country, repealing these muzzling laws must be a priority.

Thankfully, a coalition of humane groups led by the Greyhound Equality Society is fighting for the end of greyhound muzzling in the state of Victoria. Their campaign has made tangible progress and has a good chance of success.

Enter Greyhound Racing Victoria (GRV), a group that both regulates and promotes commercial dog racing. Although GRV acknowledges the need to reform other parts of the racing industry, it has doubled down on the failed policy of muzzling adopted greyhounds. In a submission to the Victoria government, GRV claims that it is necessary to muzzle adopted greyhounds because they are inherently dangerous:

"Greyhounds are large, strong, extremely fast and can kill ... Unfortunately, instinctive behaviour is very resistant to the influences of training and behaviour modification."
The submission also rhetorically asks whether "all greyhounds are suited to being family pets" and states:
"The short answer is NO."
To justify these ridiculous positions, GRV refers to a behavior assessment program created in America by Dr. Amy Marder, who it refers to as "one of the leaders in the field of Shelter Medicine." However, Dr. Marder has submitted her own testimony to the government which refutes many of the claims made by GRV. Her submission points out that the behavior assessment program she created does not apply to predatory behavior at all:
"The evaluation part does NOT include a test for predatory behavior ... I have seen predatory behavior in a number of dogs, but never in a greyhound."
Finally, Dr. Marder weighs in on the government mandate that adopted greyhounds be muzzled in Australia:
"I do not support compulsory greyhound muzzling both because I do not think it is necessary to protect the public, but also because it may be preventing the rehoming of very nice animals."
On this point, Dr. Marder is in good company. Every major animal protection group is opposed to this flawed policy, including RSPCA Australia. Its position is clear, concise, and on point:
"There is no evidence to show that greyhounds as a breed pose any greater risk to the public compared to other dog breeds or mix of breeds ... [T]he misconception that greyhounds need to be muzzled has major ramifications for greyhound rehoming, preventing many greyhounds that are discarded by the racing industry from finding a new home. Removing muzzling laws would significantly help improve the image of greyhounds and thus increase rehoming rates."
GRV is trying to start a new chapter when it comes to commercial greyhound racing in Victoria. Its position that the government should mandate the muzzling of adopted greyhounds is a serious misstep, and one the group should reconsider.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Epic Failure for New Iowa Dog Track

Harley raced at Dubuque Greyhound Park
Last year, the Iowa legislature passed a law to phase out dog racing at one track and permanently end millions of dollars in annual subsidies for greyhound breeders. Unfortunately the Iowa Greyhound Association (IGA), which represents the dog racing industry, was able to win major concessions in the law.

In the coming years, greyhound breeders will receive an outrageous golden parachute worth a total of $72 million. Half of these golden parachute funds can be used to operate a dog track in Dubuque. The law gives the IGA the exclusive right to operate this track, under a sweetheart deal that grants them a five-year property lease for only a single dollar per year. In addition to this waste, the IGA was given yet another $2.4 million state handout in March.

After receiving one special favor after another, the new dog track in Dubuque is still a failure. We now have data for the first three months at the newly minted "Iowa Greyhound Park," and dog race gambling is down across the board when compared to a year ago.

Gambling on live races at Iowa Greyhound Park is down a staggering 25%, as the Des Moines Register reported yesterday in a front page story. If we take a deeper dive into the numbers, the picture becomes even more bleak for the IGA. Remote gambling on the races held in Dubuque is down by 32.1%, and total dog race betting for the track has decreased by 26.2%.

Of course, the IGA is trying to put the best possible face on this epic failure. In the Register, IGA lawyer Jerry Crawford acknowledged the the track is losing money, but still claimed that things are just wonderful:
"What we are trying to do is make racing special, not make it a 24/7 activity because that model doesn't work. Our approach is succeeding."
Meanwhile, the IGA has refused to make a single meaningful reform to improve greyhound welfare. In November I laid out four key changes the IGA could make to help greyhounds: a new system of housing, halting the use of anabolic steroids in female dogs, ending the use of "4-D" meat, and providing funding to ensure that every injured greyhound receives veterinary care.

None of these changes have occurred. Instead of proving to the world that it is capable of reform, the dog racing industry has again put its personal profits ahead of animal welfare. Sadly, this new Iowa track can probably limp along for a while because the vast subsidy dollars the IGA will receive. Let history show that its Dubuque experiment was an economic failure on day one, and amounted to nothing more than another facility where dogs suffer and die.