Tuesday, July 28, 2015

In Macau, an Historic Moment for the Greyhounds

First International Roundtable on Greyhounds, photo by Heather Neil
After meeting with greyhound advocates in New Zealand and Australia, GREY2K USA Worldwide President Christine Dorchak and I ended our marathon campaign trip in Macau. All over the world dog racing is the subject of controversy, and the center of this debate is the Canidrome greyhound track, where every racing dog is eventually killed.

Christine and I inspected the track, a sad facility that reeks of death. Greyhounds with visible bandages and severed tails race before an empty grandstand. Seeing the worst dog track in the world strengthened my resolve to end this animal cruelty.

The Canidrome sits on government land, and has a lease that expires at the end of this year. Nearly 300,000 citizens from across the globe have already signed a petition to Macau Chief Executive Chui Sai On, asking him to let the track close. While in Macau, we were given a high level meeting with the Macau government, and left encouraged that a victory for the dogs is possible.

Our trip to Macau also made history. For the first time, top level animal protection leaders from all over the world joined together, in person, to address the cruelty of greyhound racing. We were incredibly honored to be joined at this meeting by Lyn White from Animals Australia, Paul Littlefair from the British RSPCA, Heather Neil from RSPCA Australia, Nancy Lai from the Taiwan SPCA, Teresa Lee and Chris Cui from the SPCA Hong Kong, Karina O'Carrol and Irene Feng from Animals Asia, Qin Xiaona from the Capital Animal Welfare Association, Kirsten Mitchell from Kirsten's Zoo and others. This all-star panel of animal protection advocates planned a strategy to close the Canidrome, and discussed other greyhound welfare issues.

This historic event was hosted by non-profit group Anima Macau and its dynamic President, Albano Martins. Albano is a true champion for all dogs, and it's a good sign that he is leading the fight to help the Canidrome greyhounds.

Christine and I are now back in the GREY2K USA Worldwide office, catching up on domestic campaigns in Florida, West Virginia and other states. Although the United States will always be our top priority, I see how intertwined the many fights now underway to help greyhounds truly are. This is a global problem, and deserves a global solution.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Greyhound Advocates Confront Cruelty in Australia

Hayley showed us the Noble farm, seen from another property
The final days of our Australian campaign trip were a flurry of activity.

In Sydney, we strategized with three compassionate lawmakers: Greens Member of Parliament John Kaye, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, and Animal Justice Party Member of Parliament Mark Pearson. We also learned about the good work that local animal protection groups are doing, including Animal Liberation and Sentient. Additionally, we were honored to meet Anne Lloyd-Jones from the Animals Asia Foundation in person. Anne is a strong ally who has been working with us for years in a joint effort to close the Canidrome. Finally, we met with several members of the media who are covering the evolving debate over dog racing.

I was particularly impressed with MP John Kaye. He brings a unique mixture of political experience, compassion, and strategic sophistication to the fight to end greyhound cruelty. We are lucky to have him fighting for the dogs.

In Brisbane, we spent an entire day with Hayley Cotton and the greyhound advocates who courageously exposed live baiting. We visited the heart of the industry, farms where live baiting cruelty was recently exposed. We also had dinner with a dozen notable leaders of the humane community, including representatives of Friends of the HoundAnimal Welfare QueenslandGone Are The Dogs and Animal Liberation Queensland.

It's truly incredible how many people are fighting for the greyhounds in Australia. Without a doubt, the pieces are already in place for a real, effective campaign to outlaw dog racing in the country. Although these advocates are working for greyhounds in different ways, they are joined together by their dedication, commitment, and willingness to confront cruelty.

This commitment is personified by Hayley Cotton, who has been nominated for the Pride of Australia Medal. Hayley is one of the most impressive greyhound advocates I've encountered over the past two decades. Thanks to her, John Kaye, and everyone who cares about greyhounds, I'm convinced that the complete end of dog racing in Australia is inevitable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Change Coming to Australian Dog Racing Industry

Over the last two days, GREY2K USA Worldwide President Christine Dorchak and I held a series of key meetings in Melbourne, Australia, during the second leg of our campaign trek through Australasia and China.
We Meet With the Excellent Animals Australia Team

First, we held a comprehensive strategy meeting with powerhouse humane organization Animals Australia. In many ways Animals Australia reminds me of our key British ally, the League Against Cruel Sports. It is clever, committed, and not afraid to take on a tough fight. The work Animals Australia is doing for greyhounds is one of the most significant new developments in the global fight to end dog racing.

We then met with several top officials from RSPCA Australia, a national non-profit organization that is widely respected and speaks with a powerful voice in advocating for Australian greyhounds.

These visits were followed by a series of meetings with top representatives from the Australian greyhound racing industry, including Greyhounds Australasia CEO Scott Parker. We had a very open conversation, a stark contrast to the bunker mentality we experienced in New Zealand, and have witnessed for years in America. During nearly four hours of talks, it became clear that industry executives in Australia are fully aware that commercial dog racing is out of step with mainstream values on animal welfare, and fundamental changes are necessary.

After these industry talks, we received an informative briefing on the Australian political system from leaders of the Animals Justice Party. The Party recently won its first parliamentary seat, and will no doubt lead the passage of major humane victories in the years to come.

Carey Theil and Scott Parker After Hours of Industry Talks
Finally, we had dinner with the Greyhound Equality Society and Amazing Greys Greyhound Rescue and Adoption. The Greyhound Equality Society is doggedly fighting to repeal a wrongheaded requirement that all adopted greyhounds be muzzled in public, a victory that seems inevitable. Meanwhile, Amazing Greys is doing incredible work helping to find homes for rescued greyhounds, with an all-volunteer effort. This meeting provided us with invaluable insights about greyhound adoption in Victoria, and was a wonderful end to our time in Melbourne.

Even though we have only been in the country for a few days, it is breathtaking to see how many different people are working to improve the lives of greyhounds. Mainstream animal protection groups, adoption advocates, political parties and even the industry itself all recognize that the status quo cannot continue, and greyhounds deserve better. Based on these meetings, I am more confident than ever that fundamental changes are on the way Down Under.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kiwis Speak Up For Greyhounds

Christine and I meet with Lynn Charlton, Bob Kerridge & Lucy
Last week, GREY2K USA Worldwide President Christine Dorchak and I embarked on our most ambitious journey yet to fight for greyhounds, a two-week, four country campaign swing across Australasia and China.

Our trek began in New Zealand. After twenty hours of air flight, we were greeted by dynamic greyhound advocate Lynn Charlton. Lynn is a leading voice for racing dogs in the country, and graciously allowed us to stay with her and her three adopted dogs.

The morning after our arrival, we held a strategy meeting with key greyhound campaigners from across the country, including Saving Wilma and the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand. Together, we attempted a site inspection of the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club, a visit that was cut short when we were asked to leave a few moments after we asked questions about how the track operates. I was surprised by the level of anxiety we encountered at the track, which bordered on paranoia. In all my years advocating for greyhounds, I have never encountered a track that so clearly has something to hide.

On our second day in New Zealand, we met with Safe for New Zealand, a tenacious animal protection group that fights animal cruelty on many fronts. Safe is dedicated to ending greyhound racing completely, and is a valuable ally.

After meeting with Safe we sat for an interview with barrister, journalist and author Catriona MacLennan. Catriona thoroughly reported on our fact finding trip for greyhounds, and the sad reality that greyhounds in New Zealand face.

Finally, on our way to the airport we visited with Bob Kerridge at the Auckland SPCA. Bob is a titanic figure in the New Zealand animal protection community, and has worked to help animals for decades. The greyhounds have a good friend in the Auckland SPCA, and in Bob.

Even though we were only in New Zealand for less than 48 hours, it's clear to me that the pieces are already in place to secure the passage of significant reforms for greyhounds. Industry insiders should think twice about their current bunker mentality, which will only hasten the end of commercial dog racing in their country.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Greyhound Gambling at Lowest Level in 30 Years

Flak lives with his adopted family in Texas
This week, the Association of Racing Commissioners International released its 2013 Statistical Summary, which reports the amount gambled on greyhound races nationwide from all sources. ARCI is the only reference for this valuable information.

In 2013, a total of $633.3 million was bet on dog races in the United States. Most of this money is returned to gamblers in winnings, with the rest split between track owners and greyhound breeders. Dog track gambling fell by 4.8% over the previous year, and has now declined by 82% since 1991, when the industry economically peaked.

This is the lowest amount bet on greyhound racing in at least thirty years, and further proof that this cruel industry is dying.

It's also clear that GREY2K USA is having a powerful impact on the dog racing industry. In the twelve years since we formed, the rate of industry decline has more than doubled (8.8% annually) compared to the previous dozen years. In fact, gambling on dog racing has dropped by 68%, and nearly thirty tracks have closed or ended live racing, since our formation in 2001.

We are winning the fight to end greyhound racing, against a cruel industry that refuses to change. Now is the time to double down on our advocacy efforts, and continue moving toward the day when dog racing ends completely.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Suspended Greyhound Trainer Has Troubled History

Photo by Pima County Animal Care and Control, 2010.
On Sunday night, television station KGUN reported that a greyhound trainer at Tucson Greyhound Park had been fined and suspended after a dog in her control tested positive for the powerful anabolic steroid Metandionone. According to records we obtained from the Arizona Department of Racing, trainer Nancy Guimond was suspended for 15 days and fined $500 after a dog named Bob's Bess tested positive after winning a race at the South Tucson track on May 9.

It's good that Guimond was sanctioned for this serious offense. However, her case also raises questions about the way dog racing is regulated. According to state records, since 2007 Nancy Guimond has been sanctioned at least thirteen times by state regulators in Arizona, Alabama and Florida, for having dogs test positive for prohibited substances and other offenses. For example:

  • Guimond has been repeatedly disciplined by state regulators in Alabama and Arizona for entering race dogs that were over their set racing weight. Racing weights are closely monitored to prevent race fixing.

Finally, and perhaps most troubling, the official Florida license history for Guimond indicates that she was investigated for animal abuse in 2001. Her license history does not indicate whether she was disciplined, or provide details of what she was specifically accused of.

In light of this long history of violations, the recent suspension of Guimond should come as no surprise. It does, however, highlight a fundamental regulatory problem. Throughout the industry, greyhound trainers are allowed to violate the rules repeatedly, and continue working as if nothing has happened.

Nancy Guimond's suspension has already ended, and she is back at Tucson Greyhound Park. She will be allowed to continue racing dogs, despite her long history of track violations. Out of sight, out of mind.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dog Track Promoters Go Crazy Over New Friend Gina

Welcome to the family Gina!
Last month, my family added another member when we adopted Gina the greyhound.

Gina is delightful. She is affectionate and gentle, and remarkably patient with our cats. There had been a hole in our lives ever since we lost Zoe to cancer last year, and it's comforting to have a dog with us again.

Predictably, greyhound breeders responded to this happy event with bitterness and hostility. As soon as it was publicly announced that we had adopted her, several dog track promoters began trying to figure out what Gina's racing name was, so they could attempt to remove her. According to greyhound trainer Chris Grieb:
"I've been relentlessly searching for possibilities on her identity. I'll worry about what to do with that information once it's obtained."
Meanwhile, after another dog track supporter suggested taking a "visit" to our office, Beverly Stahlgren Schrecongost wrote that someone should forcibly abduct Gina:
"Then grab her and run like hell!!!"
That message was followed by a joke about a "get away car." Meanwhile, Daytona Kennel Club worker Connie Winkler suggested that Gina's former racing owner should try to remove her from our family by falsely claiming she was stolen.

As usual, the most disturbing comment was made by former National Greyhound Association official Craig Randle, who again referred to the near fatal accident GREY2K USA President Christine Dorchak suffered in 1992:
"Is that dog trolley TRAINed?"
This bizarre death wish was echoed by Bruce Walters, who mistakenly referred to Gina as "Ginger:"
"30 days before Ginger decides she wants to jump in front of a moving vehicle."
For years, we have made it clear that our opposition to greyhound racing is not about individual industry members, or specific acts of animal cruelty. Like every other mainstream animal protection organization, we are opposed to commercial dog racing because the industry uses standard practices that are cruel and inhumane. This is still our position.

At the same time, it's now obvious that the last vestiges of this failed industry have become a safe haven for the most vile, hateful rhetoric. These racing promoters cannot police themselves, and are showing the world who they really are: a handful of bitter, petty people who are fighting tooth and nail to preserve an industry that harms dogs.