Friday, March 25, 2011

Debate Over Florida Greyhound Racing Makes a Wrong Turn

Over the past month, I have been working to pass two humane bills that would decouple greyhound racing from other forms of gambling in Florida. The Sunshine State is now home to a majority of dog tracks nationwide, and these proposals (House Bill 1145 and Senate Bill 1594) would significantly reduce greyhound injuries and confinement.

These bills are supported by every major animal protection group in Florida and nationwide, and have already begun to advance. Earlier this week, a House subcommittee approved HB 1145 by an overwhelming vote of 14-1, and a Senate Committee has already voted in favor of SB 1594. Despite these initial victories, there is a long road ahead. To become law, these bills must still pass four additional committees, and be approved by the House of Representatives, Senate, and Governor. In short, this debate has only just begun.

While I am thankful for the progress that has already been made for Florida's greyhounds, I am also disturbed by the vitriolic, even violent rhetoric that is now being used by greyhound breeders who are opposed to greyhound decoupling. In fact, there is evidence that an organized campaign is now underway to defeat these common sense measures, using scare tactics and intimidation.

This underhanded effort began last month, when dog racing supporter Leslie Wootten posed as an independent journalist, and then wrote a series of "articles" attacking GREY2K USA and other greyhound protection advocates. Wootten used flawed logic to argue that greyhound decoupling would actually harm greyhounds, a claim that is not only false but is completely absurd.

The campaign then shifted to online intimidation tactics that appear to have no boundaries. For example, yesterday morning an opponent of greyhound decoupling using the name "Chuck" posted a comment on a media website in which he personally attacked GREY2K USA President Christine Dorchak, referring to her manner of dress and accusing her of being responsible for the death of greyhounds:
Christine Dorchak and Grey2k (sic) couldn't be less concerned with the safety and welfare of greyhounds. Curiously their actions seem to result in the deaths of more greyhounds than are saved ... that red dress she wore when testifying is stained with the blood of those greyhounds.
When greyhound breeders learned of this message, they applauded the author. In a post on American Greyhounds, a website used by greyhound breeders, pro-racing adoption advocate Pam Davis referred to this as a "pretty good" post, and encouraged greyhound breeders to "comment away on this one!" These comments by Davis contain a good dose of irony, since it was only a few months ago that she asked GREY2K USA to assist her in filing a complaint against a greyhound trainer at Jefferson County Kennel Club.

Anger has not only been directed towards greyhound protection advocates, but also lawmakers. In a post on American Greyhounds, a greyhound breeder named Kate D'Arcy personally attacked Senator Maria Sachs, who is the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 1594:
I listened to the podcast, and it seemed evident to me that Sachs is certainly funded by Grey2K (sic) + the HSUS nutters ... it made me sick just listening to the condescending cow!
This is only one of many hateful statements that have been posted on American Greyhounds. In another comment posted on March 18, greyhound owner Mike Tice from Alabama wrote that he wished physical harm would come to greyhound protection advocates:
The local fruitcakes are partying it up on that commentary. I really hope they all fall off of a cliff...and get trampled
In another post, a greyhound owner from Boca Raton, Florida named Kenny Kilgore suggested that their strategy should be to irritate lawmakers until they vote to continue the cruelty of dog racing:
Lobbying works by constant irritation......they'll give in just so you will leave them alone.
A similar comment was posted by greyhound enthusiast Brian Lee, who posted this morning that greyhound breeders are engaged in "political warfare."

Lee is also the author of what is likely the the most ironic statement that has been made so far on greyhound decoupling in Florida. After participating in several of these hateful online discussions, he posted the following:
Y'Know this reminds me of a few years back when the KKK had their Grand Wizard, David Duke - take off his white sheet and, dress up in a fancy suit and tie. This was the "kinder gentler" Klan remember? I think he even talked about running for President. Well they can put lipstick on a pig all they want ...
While these statements are hurtful, they should be a rallying cry for greyhound protection advocates. Rather than respond in kind, we must channel our aggravation into action.

We must strive to make a sound, policy-based argument that greyhound decoupling should pass, and be a chorus of compassionate voices in doing so.

Because at the end of the day, greyhound breeders are lashing out because they are desperate. They simply cannot stand the fact that their cruelty is finally coming to an end.

Monday, March 7, 2011

When the Tail Wags the Greyhound

A few days ago I wrote about a dog racing supporter named Leslie Wootten who posed as an independent journalist, and is now publishing a series of "articles" on greyhound adoption and dog racing in other countries. Wootten is not an independent journalist at all, but is in fact a greyhound racing supporter and the daughter of a former dog track executive.

With this biased background, it should surprise no one that her "articles" are nothing more than a thinly-veiled assault on greyhound protection advocates. Specifically, her "articles" claim that efforts to end greyhound racing are somehow causing greyhounds to be harmed elsewhere. On this point, Wootten writes:
Make no mistake, some individuals from other countries have purchased Greyhounds with owner consent, but other Greyhounds have slipped through the cracks, unwitting products of Grey2K’s doctrinaire cause to stop what they call “the cruelty of Greyhound racing.”
This kind of logic is like the tail wagging the greyhound. The fact is, American greyhound breeders have been selling dogs to other countries for decades, long before GREY2K USA existed. For example:
All of these cases occurred years, sometimes decades, before GREY2K USA formed as a non-profit organization. The sad truth is, some greyhound breeders will apparently do just about anything to profit from these beautiful animals, including selling them to countries with even worse standards of care. Of course, the responsibility for this poor decision rests solely with the greyhound breeder who makes the decision, not with anyone else.

This lack of responsibility is yet another reason why greyhound racing must end. Prohibiting greyhound racing in the United States will help fight the international trafficking in greyhounds by making it harder for American breeders to profit from their cruel businesses. In fact, between 2002 and 2010 the breeding of greyhounds for racing in the United States dropped by a staggering 53%.

GREY2K USA opposes the transfer of greyhounds to any country in the world, and will keep working until the cruelty of dog racing ends everywhere. As a country we should demonstrate leadership in this regard, and urge the global community to follow our lead.

Instead, Wootten would have us adopt a policy that amounts to acquiescence to the lowest common denominator. Using her logic, no injustice should ever be abolished in our community if it happens to also take place somewhere else.

This is not leadership. Instead, it is twisted logic used in an effort to perpetuate cruelty.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dog Racing Supporter Poses as Journalist, Publishes Biased "Article" on Adoption

A few weeks ago, GREY2K USA was contacted by a woman named Leslie Wootten, who claimed to be an "independent" journalist working on a news story. We became concerned, however, when this "reporter" refused to identify who she was reporting for. Also, her "interview" was nothing more than a series of biased questions.

After doing subsequent research, we discovered that Ms. Wootten was not a reporter at all, but is in fact a long-time supporter of greyhound racing and the daughter of a former dog track executive. We were also deeply troubled by a statement she made about GREY2K USA Vice President Jennifer Krebs on an internet bulletin board in December 2009:
Jen Krebs' words appear everywhere (in seems) on behalf of Grey2K. She treats this duty like a full-time job (which it may be), so I certainly agree that articulate replies from credible sources should be ready to lob back each and every time she's on the loose.
Setting aside the fact that she is completely wrong about Jennifer, who is a volunteer board member, this message exposes Wootten's real agenda: protecting the greyhound racing industry.

In light of this obvious agenda, we were not surprised this morning when her "article" was published by adoption advocate Rory Goree. Goree claims to be neutral on greyhound racing, but in actuality has been a longtime apologist for greyhound breeders. He acknowledged as much in a press release he issued only a few days before citizens in Massachusetts voted to end greyhound racing:
It isn't just people employed by the racing industry who oppose their ballot question to ban racing. A lot of greyhound adoption people believe that racing is a great life for these dogs, who are bred to run.
The "article" published this morning by Wootten and Goree falsely claims that GREY2K USA does not support greyhound adoption, and does not care about ending greyhound racing in other countries. This is completely false.

Although we are not an adoption group, GREY2k USA strongly supports adoption efforts. Over the years, we have made donations to dozens of non-profit adoption groups across the country. We give adoption referrals on an ongoing basis, promote adoption through links on our website, and regularly encourage all of our supporters to consider adopting a greyhound. I have also personally adopted a beautiful greyhound named Zoe, and am honored to share my life with her.

Regarding greyhound racing in other countries, we are deeply committed to helping prevent the spread of greyhound racing, and ending it in the countries where it does exist. In recent years, we have fought for the greyhounds in countries across the world, including Guam, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Jamaica, the Philippines, and other countries. For example, in Guam we helped write legislation that prohibited greyhound racing, and the law was based on the ballot initiative voters previously had approved in Massachusetts.

If Wootten and Goree had truly been interested in reporting the facts, they would have included these efforts in their "article." In the end, however, I'm not really surprised that the truth about our work ended up on the cutting room floor. From the beginning, their apparent goal was to raise false issues about GREY2K USA and greyhound adoption, and in doing so perpetuate the cruelty of greyhound racing.