Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Do Racing Greyhounds Test Positive for Cocaine?

Over the weekend, WFTV TV News reported that seven greyhounds recently tested positive for cocaine at Daytona Beach Kennel Club.

Incredibly, when the TV station went to the track and interviewed a local greyhound gambler named James Howell, he said he was not at all surprised. "It’s kind of disappointing that they do it, but it seems that is the nature of the dog racing."

Sadly, this is not the first time a racing greyhound has tested positive for cocaine. In fact, greyhounds have repeatedly tested positive for this narcotic at racetracks across the country.

In January 2010, greyhound trainer Harold Williams was fined $50 after a greyhound in his control named Kiowa Fly Lucia tested positive for cocaine at Mobile Greyhound Park. At the time, Harold Williams was working for the No Limits Sports kennel, which was owned by his brother Ronald Williams.

Over the past decade, racing greyhounds have also tested positive for cocaine at dog tracks in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Colorado.

Additionally, this problem does not appear to be isolated to the United States. In September 2010, the South Yorkshire Star reported that a greyhound named Droopys Arshavin tested positive for cocaine at Owlerton Stadium in the United Kingdom.

Even though these positives have occurred at tracks across the country and world, the problem does appear to be particularly severe in Florida. In July 2010 the Florida Times Union reported that two greyhounds tested positive for cocaine before racing at Orange Park Kennel Club in Jacksonville. In 2009, a greyhound trainer named Marvin Caballero was fined $1,000 and suspended for 10 days after a greyhound named Tempo Super Stud tested positive for cocaine at Palm Beach Kennel Club. A few years earlier in 2004, the Tampa Tribune reported that 119 greyhounds had tested positive for cocaine over a three year-period at tracks across the Sunshine State.

Why is this happening? While it is certainly possible that some greyhound trainers have given dogs cocaine in an effort to alter the outcome of races, it is also possible that these positives are due to cocaine being transferred to dogs accidentally by trainers who are using the drug. There is some evidence to support this position, and these positive test results often involve very small amounts of cocaine. For example, one of the dogs that recently tested positive at Orange Park kennel club in Jacksonville tested positive for 20 nanograms of benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram. Further, the racetrack regulators whom I have spoken to on this issue claim that these positive results are most likely caused by human transference.

However, this is where things really get murky. Even if most of these cases are the result of human transference, it is entirely possible that even small amounts of cocaine -- a powerful stimulant -- could affect the outcome of a race. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cocaine can result in "faster reaction times and diminished effects of fatigue."

Further, law enforcement officials and industry regulators have so far been reluctant to fully investigate these cases and definitively determine the source of these cocaine positives. In 2004, we asked then Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist to investigate greyhound cocaine positives and determine whether or not they were attempts to fix races. Unfortunately, he declined.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that either scenario is troubling. In fact, it is hard to say which is worse: that greyhounds are being given cocaine to alter the outcome of races, or that greyhounds are being handled by individuals who are using cocaine.

Either way, this is yet another example of the problems with dog racing. It is also a sad reminder of why we must continue fighting until the cruelty of greyhound racing is outlawed everywhere.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seven Wishes for the Greyhounds in 2011

Every New Year brings renewal, an opportunity to start again. For GREY2K USA, the New Year also brings fresh efforts to end the cruelty of dog racing. In my first Saving Greys post, I would like to look forward to 2011, and highlight seven wishes I have for the greyhounds this year.

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself. I currently serve as executive director of GREY2K USA, a national non-profit greyhound protection organization. We work across the country to pass stronger greyhound protection laws and phase out greyhound racing. As executive director, I am responsible for making sure GREY2K USA operates efficiently, and also serve as the primary strategist for our campaigns. I this role, I have the honor of working with an incredible Board of Directors led by President and General Counsel Christine Dorchak. She inspires me every day, and is the heart of our organization.

I also collaborate on an ongoing basis with a very diverse group of individuals and organizations. This includes close friends in the animal protection community, like the Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, anti-gambling advocates, greyhound adoption leaders, and even racetrack owners who have come to the realization that dog racing is no longer viable and should end. Finally, I am blessed to work with many greyhound advocates from around the world who care about these amazing dogs and want to see the cruelty of dog racing end.

On a personal note, I live with a beautiful rescued greyhound named Zoe and four mischievous cats. I recently adopted an adorable but restless kitten named Little Ricky from a local municipal shelter, and as a result have not slept well in months. In my spare time, I volunteer for several non-profit organizations and am a National Master in chess.

Now, let’s look at my top seven wishes for the greyhounds in 2011.

  1. The closure of Tucson Greyhound Park. A recent GREY2K USA investigation proved that dogs at this facility endure lives of terrible confinement, kept in small cages for long hours each day. The dogs our investigators observed lived in darkness, and most were permanently muzzled. This is one of the worst greyhound racetracks in the country, and to date has resisted even the most basic efforts at reform. We will continue to try to negotiate with track management, but ultimately this issue may need to be resolved directly by Arizona voters. Stay tuned, as we are poised to release more information soon about this cruel greyhound track very soon.

  2. The end of greyhound racing in Iowa. In the coming months, Iowa lawmakers will consider a proposal that would disconnect greyhound racing from other forms of gambling, allowing it to mercifully end in the Hawkeye State. Since 1995, greyhound breeders in Iowa have received more than $140 million in subsidies, and dog racing only exists there today because the state requires that two casinos race dogs in order to stay open. This law makes no sense, and should end.

  3. Similarly, Florida lawmakers should pass a law disconnecting greyhound racing from poker and other forms of gambling. Most Florida dog tracks are now losing money on greyhound races, while making money on poker and other forms of gambling. Unfortunately, under the current law they cannot do one without the other. Like Iowa, this archaic law makes no sense, and should be repealed.

  4. Continued reductions in greyhound breeding, and continued increases in greyhound adoption. In recent years, the number of greyhounds bred to race has dropped significantly. That is good news, and means that fewer greyhounds are being euthanized simply because they are no longer profitable as racers. At the same time, greyhound adoption groups have proven themselves to be extraordinarily adaptive, and are finding more homes for greyhounds than ever before. These are both wonderful trends for the greyhounds that will hopefully continue.

  5. The defeat of a Texas proposal to prop up greyhound racing with casino gambling. In Texas, greyhound racing has been reduced to only one track, and could soon end completely. However, greyhound breeders have joined with powerful racetrack owners in an effort to prop up dog racing with casino gambling. If this dangerous proposal passes, greyhound racing would expand again in the Lone Star State and exist for decades to come. This harmful effort must be defeated.

  6. Justice for the Ebro greyhounds. In late October, greyhound trainer Ronnie Williams was arrested and charged with dozens of counts of felony animal cruelty after 33 greyhounds were found dead at Ebro Greyhound Park. Even though it is too late to help these poor dogs, we must make sure that this case sets a forward-looking precedent when it comes to animal cruelty. Williams should receive a fair trial, and if he is convicted, should be held accountable for his crimes.

  7. Finally, I hope that this blog can meet the high standard that has been set by other compassionate blogs, like Living the Greyt Life, End Tucson Greyhound Racing, Ironicus Maximus, Pack Mentality and many others.

Whatever the outcome on these important issues, it is a certainty that 2011 will bring surprises in the fight for greyhound protection that we cannot even imagine now. I can also guarantee that I will work hard to ensure that GREY2K USA achieves as many of these goals as possible, and continues to be an outspoken voice for the greyhounds.

If you have thoughts on these goals, or would like to share your wishes for the greyhounds in 2011, please do so by commenting below.

Also, please share this blog with anyone you know who cares about dogs. If enough people support these humane efforts, I am convinced that 2011 can be another Year of the Greyhound.