Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interstate "Simulcast" Gambling Supports Greyhound Cruelty and Should End

As the number of greyhound tracks shrinks across the United States, the remaining dog racing facilities are increasingly dependent on "simulcast" gambling from other states for their survival. This is a dangerous trend that should concern greyhound advocates.

It sounds complicated, but simulcasting is actually very simple. Dog tracks broadcast their races to locations across the country where gamblers can place bets. When a wager is made remotely, it is pooled with the other bets as if the remote gambler was at the track himself.

In some states, gamblers are being allowed to support dog racing even though the decision has already been made that greyhound racing should be outlawed. For example, Massachusetts citizens overwhelmingly voted to ban all forms of gambling on greyhound races in 2008. Despite this clear vote, lawmakers have ignored part of this humane law and have are allowing greyhound simulcasting to continue. Working with State Senator Pat Jehlen, GREY2K USA has filed legislation to phase out greyhound simulcasting in the Bay State and this fight is ongoing.

Meanwhile, in Idaho another greyhound simulcasting fight is underway. Led by Ada County Commission Sharon Ullman and Greyhound Rescue of Idaho, citizens are asking that a 1996 ban on greyhound racing be fully enforced. In a recent guest column, Ullman made a compelling case that the law is being broken. In part, her column reads:
"The Alabama-based Greene Group operators of Les Bois Park are committing a felony every time they simulcast greyhound racing at that facility. Dog racing is illegal in the State of Idaho because of the heinous treatment of the dogs allowed by the Greene Group at their track in Post Falls, where live greyhound racing began in the late 1980’s."
Ullman also expressed frustration with government officials, who appear to be unwilling to enforce the law.

There is also, however, some good news regarding greyhound simulcasting. Thanks to the hard work of Citizens Against Greyhound Racing, the Pennsylvania legislature unanimously voted to prohibit greyhound simulcasting earlier this year. Also, last year a proposal to legalize greyhound simulcasting was defeated in New Mexico, thanks to the efforts of Animal Protection of New Mexico, the New Mexico Coalition Against Gambling, and Greyhound Companions of New Mexico.

As greyhound advocates, we must not rest until all forms of dog racing are outlawed everywhere. Until then, greyhounds will continue to suffer so that a handful of dog breeders can use them as profit machines.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dog Racing Columnist Gives Straight Talk on Greyhound Injuries and Track Designs

This morning, I read some of the most insightful comments so far regarding the chronic problem of greyhound injuries in the racing industry, and how these injuries are related to racetrack designs. The statements were made by greyhound racing supporter and columnist Bruce Teague, and were published by the website Australian Greyhound Racing.

In his column, Teague begins by raising concerns about design plans for a proposed dog track in Deagon, Australia, and says that the location of the starting box makes "it likely that heavy interference will be the order of the day."

Teague then says that the current design plans remind him of problems that have occurred after the reconstruction of another dog track. During that reconstruction Teague claims that he suggested changes to the design, but his recommendations were ignored:
"I saw these long before contracts were issued and wrote to the GBOTA pointing out the need to move the 400m boxes into a kinder position. They rejected that suggestion."
According to Teague, greyhounds have since paid the price for design flaws at that track:
"In practice, dogs got smashed and six months after the opening the boxes were moved out a bit! Unfortunately, they had only 1m to work with on the concrete slab. It made barely any difference and dogs still get smashed today."
Most importantly, Teague then closes his column with a very apt summary of the lack of research that has been done on track design and the welfare of greyhounds.
"I offer that story mainly because engineers or others will hear plenty of opinions on design features yet there is nowhere to turn to locate good, hard information about what dogs need to get around the track in one piece."
Finally, Teague makes it clear that this is not only a problem in Australia, but throughout the greyhound racing industry.
"No broad-based track studies have ever been conducted, here or overseas, despite much urging to GALtd and state authorities. You will see a bit on turn-related injuries and a bit on surface materials, but that’s about it."
I suspect that Bruce Teague and I don't agree on many issues related to greyhound racing. I certainly agree with him on this point, however. The dog racing industry has been grossly negligent in the design of their racing facilities, and their negligence has caused the suffering and death of countless dogs.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

State Records Document Nine Fatal Greyhound Injuries at Orlando Track

As greyhound racing slowly ends across the country, Florida has become one of the last places where this cruel industry still exists. The Sunshine state is now home to a majority of all greyhound tracks nationwide, with 13 of 22 operational dog racing facilities.

Thousands of greyhounds race in Florida every year. Like racing dogs all over the country, these greyhounds endure lives of confinement and suffer serious injuries. We do not know, however, exactly how many injuries are occurring at Florida tracks, because the state does not require that greyhound injuries be reported to the public. This veil of secrecy allows dog racing promoters to hide the true cost of their cruel business.

In light of this lack of reporting, I am struck by investigative records we recently obtained from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation regarding greyhound injuries at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. According to the information we received, the state has investigated the track at least five times over the past ten months, after greyhounds suffered particularly catastrophic injuries.

These state records provide a small glimpse into the greyhound racing industry in Florida. They also tell the story of individual greyhounds who suffered and died at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club.
These records prove that greyhound injuries occur in Florida on a regular basis, and are evidence of why dog racing must end. At long as greyhound racing continues, dogs will suffer and die.

In addition to these records, we have also obtained video footage of the final race of Crystal B Disco. Please watch this footage, and then forward it to others. Unfortunately, it is too late to help Crystal. We can help other greyhounds, though, by making sure that as many people as possible know her story.

I am eager to fight again next year for a greyhound decoupling bill in the Florida legislature, which will significantly reduce dog racing and help thousands of greyhounds. When the legislative session opens I will be there, and will be thinking of Crystal B Disco and all the other greyhounds who have given their lives for this cruel industry.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

State Records: Dogs Living in "Filthy" Conditions at Tucson Greyhound Park

At the beginning of the year, I included the closure of Tucson Greyhound Park as one of my seven wishes for the greyhounds in 2011. Simply put, Tucson is a place where greyhounds go to suffer and die. Kennel conditions are even worse than at most other dog tracks, and greyhounds routinely suffer serious injuries like broken legs.

That is why I was not surprised to learn of yet another case of neglect at Tucson. According to records we have received from the Arizona Department of Racing, a kennel inspection at the track on June 11 uncovered several humane problems. According to the inspection report:
"Floors filthy (urine & feces)/refridgerator covered inside and out with blood (from meat)"
The kennel also "could not produce a log" indicating the ultimate fate of greyhounds that had raced for the kennel. Finally, the trainer responsible for the dogs, Willard J. Eyler, refused to sign the inspection report.

Obviously these are real problems that need to be addressed, and the state investigator was correct in raising them as issues. After the investigation report was filed, the case then went before the Tucson Greyhound Park Board of Judges for further action. What happened next may be the most troubling aspect of this entire incident.

After receiving the investigative report, the Board of Judges took no action against Eyler, other than giving him a "warning."

I am deeply disappointed by this decision, and to me it is yet another example of why Tucson Greyhound Park must close. In Arizona, attempts to make life better for greyhounds through regulatory efforts have repeatedly failed.

That is why it is so important that we continue fighting for Arizona's greyhounds. We made tremendous progress this last legislative session, and have not ruled out taking our case directly to voters. One way or another, Arizona's greyhounds must receive the help they deserve.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Victory for Greyhounds in South Africa

Thanks to your help, GREY2K USA has won an important international victory for the greyhounds!

Two years ago, the government of South Africa asked a special commission to investigate the possibility of legalizing greyhound racing. GREY2K USA President Christine Dorchak submitted testimony against this dangerous proposal, and met in person with representatives of the commission. We also asked you to join us in voicing your opposition to dog racing in South Africa.

Today, the Cape Argus newspaper is reporting that the commission has finished its work, and has recommended against allowing greyhound racing. According to review commission chairwoman Astrid Ludin:
“There’s a strong lobby around dog racing, but it is a very small sector. Given the limited demand and the problems associated with it, we did not think it should be legalised.”
In making its finding the commission specifically cited concerns about animal welfare, and noted that the countries that have allowed greyhound racing have struggled to address issues related to greyhound retirement and overbreeding.

This is a tremendous victory, and everyone who submitted feedback to the South African government should be proud. South Africa has made the humane choice, and shown true leadership. Will other countries, including India, now follow suit?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Court Denies Motion to Drop Charges Against Accused Greyhound Killer

Yesterday, a circuit Judge in Florida denied a motion to dismiss animal cruelty charges against former greyhound trainer Ronald Williams. Williams is charged with 42 counts of felony animal cruelty.

The details of this case, which have made national headlines, are grim. According to state officials the dogs were in Williams' control in a kennel at Ebro Greyhound Park, and died from starvation, dehydration, or asphyxia. At least some of the dogs reportedly had duct tape tightly wrapped around their throats when they were discovered.

As long as greyhound racing exists there should be strict regulations in place that are aimed at both preventing abuse and neglect, and also penalizing animal abuse when it does occur. These regulatory efforts should be supported by racing opponents and proponents.

We are hopeful that the Williams case will continue to advance, and if he is found guilty he should face a stiff penalty. The case is a test for the entire regulatory community, and the outcome will send a clear message about the ability of regulators and law enforcement to hold greyhound abusers accountable.

Finally, it is important to note that this is not the first incident of severe greyhound neglect that has occurred in the Florida Panhandle. Although this alleged cruelty may not, by itself, be a policy argument in favor of ending greyhound racing, it does reflect on a culture of neglect that has persisted for far too long at dog tracks in Ebro, Pensacola, and Monticello, Florida.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Former Greyhound Tracks Make New Start

As greyhound racing slowly ends, communities are turning the page. In Bridgeport, Connecticut the former Shoreline Star dog track has become the largest municipal animal shelter in the state. In East London, former Walthamstow Stadium is in the process of becoming affordable housing. These projects prove that the end of greyhound racing can ultimately be beneficial to the communities that were once dependent on dog racing revenue.

That is why I was so pleased today to learn that in Colorado, the property that once housed Mile High Greyhound Park is being purchased by the Commerce City Urban Renewal Authority. The Authority plans to demolish what it left of the track, and launch one of the largest urban renewal projects in the Denver Area. According to City Manager Jerry Flannery:
"This is an opportunity, a bold step [and] a proactive step by the Urban Renewal Authority in Commerce City to look at controlling its destiny in this area and region ... The connectivity of the area has been stifled a little bit by the size of this site, so we want to connect the community and make it one."
This is a wonderful step forward for this property, which once housed thousands of greyhounds. Countless dogs endured lives of terrible confinement at the track, and many suffered serious injuries. Additionally, a greyhound trainer was repeatedly fined for "mistreatment of (a) racing animal" at Mile High, and a dog tested positive for cocaine at the facility in 2005. These issues were documented in a Report on Greyhound Racing in Colorado we released last year.

Greyhound racing goes against our values as a community, and must end. This positive change will not only help greyhounds, but can also pave the way for new developments that have beneficial impacts for the community as a whole. To the municipalities that are still dependent on dog racing, take note. Commerce City is giving you a glimpse of the path forward.