Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Florida Greyhound Breeders Tell Lawmakers a Tall Tale

Seamus lives with a loving family in New York
In January, the Florida Greyhound Association distributed a press release which claimed that gambling on dog races is actually increasing. The missive was based on data from a single month, and titled:
"Florida's Greyhound Racing Venues See Revenue, Attendance Rise"
According to the release, dog tracks in Florida are "experiencing steady growth" and are "on an upward trend." There is only one problem with these statements: they are completely false.

According to data from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, betting at Florida dog tracks for the first eight months of the Fiscal Year is actually down by $670,731. Further, several tracks are experiencing declines that are nothing short of catastrophic. Pari-mutuel gambling at Pensacola Greyhound Track, for example, is down by 35%. Similarly, wagering at Ebro Greyhound Park is down by 11%.

In its press release, the Florida Greyhound Association also singled out tracks that it claimed are doing particularly well. The lobbying group claimed that betting is up at Derby Lane and Tampa, because "both tracks have full time racing advocates in marketing and public relations." Once again, this is proven wrong by the facts. According to state data, greyhound gambling at Derby Lane and Tampa is down by 8.9% and 7.6%, respectively. It's also important to note that there is no live racing at Tampa, which essentially operates as an off track betting parlor.

Were these simple mistakes by the Florida Greyhound Association, or an attempt to intentionally mislead lawmakers? Nearly a month before it went out, greyhound breeders were warned that the data they based their press release on was "inflated a bit." This apparently did not deter them from making these false statements, just weeks before the start of the legislative session.

Finally, the decline of dog racing is not limited to Florida. According to data that was released today by the Macau government, gambling at the Canidrome dog track is down by a staggering 23% for the first quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, new data from a racetrack regulator in Alabama indicates that betting on dog races at Birmingham Race Course fell by 8.7% in 2013.

All over the world, greyhound racing is dying. This is good news, and brings us closer to the day when greyhound racing will inevitably end.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Progress in Our Fight to End Dog Racing in Macau

Greyhounds at the Canidrome, 2011.
Last week, we learned that our campaign to end greyhound racing at the Macau Canidrome has taken a major step forward. In a filing with the New South Wales government, Australian dog racing officials indicated that greyhound passports to Macau are now banned.  According to Greyhound Racing New South Wales:

"GRNSW does not support the export of greyhounds to any country that do not meet contemporary animal welfare standards ... and supports the decision of Greyhounds Australasia to suspend the issuing of 'greyhound passports' to Macau in March 2013. That suspension still exists."
Since this ban has been in effect, the number of greyhounds exported to Macau has significantly dropped. More importantly, this development should send a powerful message to the Macau government that the track is not viable.

Unfortunately, greyhounds are still being shipped to Macau by individuals who are flouting the industry imposed ban on exports. This proves that the Australian dog racing industry is incapable of regulating itself, and further change is needed.

The Canidrome is now completely isolated. Animal protection groups from across the world have called on the government to close the track, because of  policies that are cruel and inhumane. Now the Canidrome has been rejected by the dog racing industry itself, a sure sign that the end is near for this death track.

The Canidrome sits on property that is owned by Macau, and its land lease expires at the end of 2015. The lease should be allowed to end, finally closing a sad chapter in Macau's history.

Friday, March 14, 2014

State Lawmakers Are Going to the Dogs

Collin lives with an adopted family in Alabama.
We have not yet reached the halfway point in the 2014 state legislative season, and greyhound advocates have already won several important victories.
  • In Iowa, a House committee has approved a bill to end greyhound racing. The measure is now awaiting a vote by the full House of Representatives.
There is also growing momentum in Florida for greyhound decoupling, which would significantly reduce greyhound racing in the Sunshine state and help thousands of dogs. Right now, a racing greyhound dies in Florida every three days.

Each of these victories represents a step forward for greyhound advocates. Also, these advances come on the heels of a very productive 2013 legislative season, when greyhound protection laws passed in four states.

Not too long ago, greyhound breeders used the legislative process as a means of propping up and continuing their cruel business. But the tide has turned, and this same process is now being utilized by the humane community to help greyhounds and end dog racing. Without a doubt, the legislative process has gone to the dogs.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Australian Dog Racing Industry Talks a Lot, but Doesn't Say Anything

Jeroen & Millie the Greyhound, Photo by Matt Knappick
Last week leaders of the Australian greyhound racing industry released a new "Animal Welfare Strategy," and claimed it was the next step in establishing "animal welfare excellence." We support efforts to reform greyhound racing, and ordinarily would applaud such a move. In this case, however, it turns out that this new "strategy" is nothing more than series of platitudes and bromides, without any real action.

For example, under "end of career alternatives" the first listed goal of this new strategy is:
"To continue to implement specific and innovative changes that will ensure that the industry Greyhound Adoption Program’s (GAP’s) are continuing to operate in the most effective manner possible to meet industry demands."
Say what? This is a great example, to quote songwriter David Byrne, of "talking a lot" but "not saying anything." Of course, by releasing this supposed "Animal Welfare Strategy" last week, the industry hoped to distract attention from the ongoing New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing. GREY2K USA Worldwide Australian Director Jeroen van Kernebeek said as much when he spoke before the inquiry the following day.  In part, Jeroen told lawmakers:
"This list of vagaries has obviously been thrown together at the last minute and we should all view this announcement sceptically. Its timing is clearly political and proves that the dog racing industry does not view greyhound welfare as a serious policy issue."
Jeroen is absolutely right. The greyhound racing industry released their bogus "Animal Welfare Strategy" as a public relations strategy. It gave them an opportunity to send out a press release on the eve of the final inquiry hearing, in which they made statements like:
"Animal welfare is one of our major priorities and this joint strategy builds on the significant progress already made ... over the past decade."
Of course, talk is cheap. It is yet to be seen if the Australian dog racing industry will actually do anything to address animal welfare. We shouldn't bet on it, considering their long track record of scandals and humane crises. In recent weeks information has been released about thousands of unprofitable greyhounds being killed, racing dogs dying after being given to veterinary schools, and other problems.

In the meantime, there is a groundswell of support for ending greyhound racing Down Under. We are proud to play a role in this budding movement, and are optimistic that the best days are ahead of us when it comes to the humane treatment of greyhounds in Australia.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cat Friends Speak Up for Greyhounds

Kate and I with Sherry Silk at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay
As we fight for greyhound decoupling and injury reporting in Florida, we are running a true grassroots campaign. That's why I was in Tampa and Sarasota last week, meeting with local animal advocates who care about greyhounds and want to see a change.

I'm always energized by these grassroots meetings. They remind me that this is a debate between our people, and the money and muscle of the greyhound industry. The grassroots events from last week were also unique in that they involved notable cat advocacy leaders.

First, I joined Humane Society of the United States State Director Kate MacFall for a meeting at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB). We discussed the upcoming legislative session and greyhound welfare issues with dozens of animal advocates, and spoke afterward with HSTB executive director Sherry Silk. HSTB is helping thousands of local cats through programs such as Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return, and sterilized 5,551 feral cats in 2011 alone. Sherry also serves as President of the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations, and is a statewide leader when it comes to animal advocacy in the Sunshine state.

Photo by Big Cat Rescue
The following day Kate and I visited Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit organization and the largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to abandoned big cats in the world. They have over 100 rescued cats, including tigers, lions, mountain lions, bobcats and other species. I was deeply impressed by the work of Big Cat Rescue, and learned a tremendous amount about these special animals from founders Carole and Howard Baskin. In addition to their cat work, Carole and Howard have courageously spoken up for Florida's greyhounds.

That evening, we went to an amazing shelter in Sarasota named Cat Depot. After meeting with a large group of animal advocates, we toured their facility where thousands of cats have been saved and given a new life. In 2013, Cat Depot rescued more than 900 homeless cats and placed 846 cats and kittens into loving homes. They also distributed over 11,600 pounds of dry food and 8,800 cats of wet food to those supporting feral cats, and to community members in need of food for their personal cat friends.

All three of these organizations are moving mountains when it comes to helping animals, and cats in particular. Who would have thought that greyhounds would find so much support from the cat world? GREY2K USA is deeply proud of these alliances, and grateful for the work our partners do.
Blink Needs a Forever Home

Finally, while at Cat Depot I was honored to meet a gorgeous cat friend named Blink. She is curious and playful, and gets along well with other cats. Her favorite toy is a feather wand toy. She is spayed and front paw declawed. She is part of Cat Depot's Chubby Cat program, and is a post-insulin diabetic cat. I have personally had a diabetic cat in my family, and know that Blink is going to make someone very happy. If you live in the Saraosta family, please consider adopting her.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Animal Advocates in Asia Speak Up for Greyhounds

A racing greyhound in Vietnam, March 2012
Asia is a key area in the global fight to end greyhound racing. In Macau advocates have joined Anima Macau in an effort to close the Canidrome, a dead-end track where Australian dogs go to die. Meanwhile, greyhound racing is expanding in Vietnam and Cambodia, and humane groups are cracking down on illegal greyhound racing in India. Other Asian countries, including Pakistan, have non-commercial forms of greyhound racing.

That is why we were so pleased last month for the opportunity to provide information for the Asia for Animals (AFA) Coalition's 2014 Conference. AFA is a coalition of 14 well known and respected animal protection organizations including Animals Asia, the RSPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

We put together a short presentation for the conference, outlining the challenges greyhounds face throughout Asia. In response, the AFA coalition officially endorsed two policy positions created by its Animals in Entertainment working group:
The AFA animals in entertainment coalition "support(s) the ANIMA campaign to close the Macau Canidrome"
The AFA animals in entertainment coalition "support(s) the GREY2K USA international campaign to prevent further development of the greyhound racing industry in Asia"
We are grateful to have this support, and look forward to working with our new partners to make life better for Asian greyhounds.

All over the world, leaders of the humane movement are speaking up for greyhounds. This is fantastic news, and yet another sign that the cruelty of commercial dog racing will eventually end everywhere.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Importance of Supporting Greyhound Adoption

Whaler lives with a loving family in Michigan
Across the country, non-profit greyhound rescue organizations work tirelessly to find homes for dogs coming off the track. We owe a debt of gratitude to these groups and their volunteers, who are true heroes. That is why GREY2K USA maintains a national listing of greyhound adoption organizations, and regularly gives adoption referrals.

We also financially support greyhound adoption. Between GREY2K USA and the GREY2K USA Education Fund, we have given more than $34,000 to non-profit greyhound adoption organizations since 2009. During that period we made more than one hundred donations to groups across the country and world, including organizations in Kansas, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Florida, Idaho, California, Ohio, Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Mexico, Indiana, Arizona, Michigan, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Guam and Spain.

This is an issue that should not be politicized. Greyhound adoption should be an area where everyone sets aside their differences and works together. Unfortunately, greyhound breeders have instead decided to use adoption as a political weapon, in an attempt to save their dying industry.

Last year, the Iowa Greyhound Association asked its members not to give dogs to adoption groups who speak out. This year greyhound breeders have gone a step further, and are actually calling for a ban on greyhound adoptions to people who don't share their political views.

This disturbing policy was voiced last week by racing greyhound owner Betty Carlson-Jameson on Facebook:
"I will NEVER and I do mean NEVER let one of my pups be adopted by an anti racing person!!!!!!!!"
It was echoed by another racing greyhound owner, Lisa Wheeler Pollington:
"I don't care if she feeds the dog prime beef on gold plated dishes. If (she) wants racing ended, she's not going to get her hands on one of my dogs if I have anything to do with it."
This is another example of how greyhound breeders put their political and financial interests ahead of animal welfare. To them the adoption community is just another group to intimidate, and use to perpetuate their cruelty.

Animal advocates should respond to this manipulative policy by giving even more to greyhound adoption. That is why GREY2K USA increased our adoption donations in 2013, and plan on giving even more this year.

We also need your help. Please make a generous donation to a greyhound adoption group in your community today. Together, we can make sure our compassion overcomes the strong-arm tactics of dog race promoters.