Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Winning Strategy to Help Greyhounds

GREY2K USA President Christine Dorchak & Gina
Last week Arizona became the 40th state to prohibit commercial greyhound racing when Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2127 into law. In a statement, the Governor said that dog racing's time had passed:
"Greyhound racing has run its course in Arizona ... it's heartening that these beautiful greyhounds will soon be off the track and in loving homes."
The end of dog racing in Arizona is also further proof that our strategy to protect greyhounds is working. Since our formation in 2001 we have helped pass sixteen major greyhound protection laws:
  • We led the fight to prohibit dog racing in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
  • We helped eliminate a state mandate for greyhound racing in Iowa and reduced dog track subsidies in West Virginia.
  • We helped pass a greyhound injury reporting requirement in Florida and worked with Massachusetts lawmakers to pass the only state-funded greyhound adoption trust fund in history. This program provided millions in funding to help dogs find loving homes.
The strategy we have utilized to achieve these victories is surprisingly simple. First, we deeply research the greyhound racing industry, with the goal of understanding it better than it understands itself. Next, we provide accurate information to lawmakers, members of the media, and the general public. Finally, we engage in the legislative process and ask lawmakers to make humane choices for the dogs.

This compassionate plan of action is having an impact. Since our formation thirty-one dog tracks have closed or ended live racing in the United States, and gambling on greyhound racing has dropped by 68%. The rate of industry collapse has more than doubled compared to the years before GREY2K USA Worldwide existed.

We are fortunate to live in a vibrant democracy, a system that allows citizens to bring about change and fight injustice. The process isn't easy. It requires tenacity and a willingness to challenge obstacles that appear immovable. Our slow march towards the end of greyhound cruelty, however, proves that everyday people can bring about real change.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Greyhound Tragedy Cited in Historic Arizona Vote

Rep. Andrade, photo by YANOK Photography
A few days ago the Arizona legislature unanimously passed House Bill 2127, a landmark bill to end greyhound racing that is now on the desk of Governor Doug Ducey.

During a final vote State Representative Richard Andrade gave an impassioned speech in support of the measure, and cited a 1992 case in which 124 greyhound carcasses were found in a citrus grove in Chandler Heights, Arizona.

The Chandler Heights scandal received national coverage at the time and was notable for its brutality. The dogs had been dumped after being bludgeoned or shot in the head, and most of their left ears had been removed to prevent identification. This sad case helped spur a national movement, and inspired the creation of Greyhound Network News, an important resource that gave greyhounds a voice for many years.

Listening to the Arizona debate, I was reminded of comments made by New Hampshire State Senator Sheila Roberge in 2009. I was in the chamber when she told her colleagues about Amber, a young greyhound who had died in her first ever race. After listening to Senator Roberge, the New Hampshire Senate voted to outlaw greyhound racing, ending years of animal cruelty.

It took nearly a quarter of a century, but greyhound racing in Arizona may finally be coming to a close. By signing HB 2127 into law, Governor Ducey can end this cruel industry and give the Chandler Heights greyhounds the justice they deserve.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Injured Greyhound Denied Care at Pensacola Track

Two weeks ago I sent a letter to Pensacola Greyhound Track to express my outrage over the neglect of a dog named Starring Act, who was injured in a dog fight on January 3. After the incident Starring Act was taken back to his cage by a kennel helper, who then tried to reach James Viles, the trainer responsible for the dog. Meanwhile, a second greyhound was fatally wounded and died within moments.

After consulting with track officials, the racing kennel decided against taking Starring Act to a local clinic and instead waited for a track veterinarian to arrive. The dog waited in his cage for more than five hours before being examined.

When a veterinarian finally saw Starring Act, she found that he had "received serious injuries to the neck, right front leg, and left rear leg." She euthanized Starring Act in the racing kennel because "due to the extent of the injuries ... she feared that moving the dog to her office would cause pain and suffering."

Starring Act should have received immediate care. He was failed by his trainer, his kennel, and Pensacola Greyhound Track. In my letter to the track's general manager I wrote:
"As a result of poor decisions that morning by Viles, in consultation with track veterinarian Dr. Hofmesiter and track racing officials, Starring Act was left in his cage for more than five hours before receiving veterinary care. There can be no doubt that Starring Act suffered as a result of these mistakes and was failed by your facility."
I also offered to assist Pensacola Greyhound Track in creating an emergency veterinary care policy, to ensure similar mistakes do not happen again. As of today, I have not received a response.

Finally, it's worth noting that trainer James Viles has a long history of state violations. He has been investigated 28 times for drug positives, animal deaths, and other issues. He has been fined by state regulators 15 times and formally reprimanded.

Starring Act suffered because the commercial dog racing industry puts profits ahead of animal welfare. He raced over 100 times for the gambling industry, but in the end wasn't even worth a trip to a local veterinary clinic when he needed immediate help.

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.