Monday, October 31, 2011

Greyhound Breeders Defend Broken Legs at Texas Track

Last week, GREY2K USA released a report on greyhound injuries at Gulf Greyhound Park. According to state records, 1,351 greyhound injuries have been reported at the track since 2008, including dogs that suffered broken legs, paralysis, and a fractured skull.

When we released this report, I knew it was only a matter of time before dog racing promoters tried to rationalize the high injury rate at Gulf. That is why I was not surprised when National Greyhound Association member Robert Gross minimized these serious injuries on Facebook last Saturday. He started his defense by falsely claiming that most of the injuries reported at Gulf were minor:
"1,351 injuries in 43 months - most of them minor."
This is simply not true. In fact, the most commonly reported injury was a broken leg. Further, as the Houston Chronicle noted only 32% of all reported greyhound injuries at Gulf involved sprains or strained or pulled muscles.

The next defense Gross used is priceless. He actually claimed that the Gulf injuries aren't significant, because 180,000 "individual Greyhounds" raced at the track during the period covered in our report:
"22,575 races involving 180,600 individual Greyhounds. Seems to me that Greyhound racing is an extremely safe sport."
Of course, this is completely false. To reach his ridiculous figure, Gross is counting the same greyhounds over and over again dozens of times, and pretending that each "start" represents a different dog. In reality, a few thousand greyhounds likely raced at Gulf during this period.

Finally, Gross ended his rationalization with a snide remark about my adopted greyhound Zoe, who recently cut her foot while on a walk:
"Considering that Carey Theil's only greyhound was rushed to the hospital recently due to a serious laceration while on a walk. Looks like the injury rate for his Greyhound is 100%."
I realize that greyhound breeders have become experts at rationalizing and denying the cruelty of dog racing. Nonetheless, I am surprised by the naivety of this argument. To be clear, when a greyhound suffers an injury while on a walk around the neighborhood, that is a sad accident.

By contrast, the experience of greyhounds in the racing industry is quite different. Greyhound breeders "produce" large numbers of dogs. They ship them off to racetracks, where the dogs live in warehouse style kennels in rows of stacked cages. The dogs race against each other so that gamblers can use them as numbers to bet on. Every year, greyhounds suffer thousands of injuries, and the breeders know full well that many of the dogs they send to race will die on the track. To them, this is simply the price of doing business. Like greyhound trainer John O'Donnell said in 2008, to them broken legs are "no big deal."

The death of greyhounds like Carla and Patches, two sisters who died at Gulf, are not accidents. Instead, they are the entirely predictable result of an industry that is cruel and inhumane.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Remembering Carla and Patches, Sister Greyhounds Who Died on the Same Track

This morning GREY2K USA released a report on greyhound injuries at Gulf Greyhound Park, the last remaining dog racing facility in Texas. The overall statistics are tragic. Since 2008, 1,351 greyhound injuries have been reported at the track and 49 greyhounds have died or were euthanized. Our report was covered in a front-page story in the Houston Chronicle.

The most relevant facts that emerge from these state injury reports, however, are not statistics. The records also document individual dogs who suffered and died. Even though we cannot help these dogs, we can honor them by telling their stories.

Today, I would like to remember Carla and Patches, sister greyhounds who both died at Gulf. These two greyhounds undoubtedly knew each other well, and probably spent much of their early life together.

On February 25, 2010, Rags Carla was euthanized after she broke her right front leg during a race at Gulf. Her sister, Rags Patches, died at the track only two months later. According to the injury report for Patches, she died on April 30 after she fell during a race, broke her neck and was paralyzed. Patches was nineteen months old at the time of her death.

Of course, these are only two of the dogs who have suffered at Gulf, and all of the dogs who died there deserve to have their stories told. That is why we also released a short video today that documents three fatal greyhound injuries at the track. Please watch this video, and forward it to others. In this small way, we can give these poor dogs a voice.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Greyhound Trainer Receives Five Year Prison Sentence in Ebro Cruelty Case

According to news reports, former greyhound trainer Ronnie Williams plead guilty this morning to 39 counts of animal cruelty. He was arrested last year when dozens of dead greyhounds were discovered in his kennel at Ebro Greyhound Park. According to state officials, the dogs died from starvation, dehydration, or asphyxia.

Williams was sentenced to five years in prison for each charge. However the sentences will run concurrently. He has already spent a year in jail while waiting trial, and will not receive credit for that time served.

There is no doubt that Williams should have received a stiffer penalty for his heinous acts. Sadly, it is common for animal abusers to receive relatively light sentences.

Today's plea is the end of a sad story in which dozens of greyhounds suffered and died. Today, my thoughts are with those dogs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jack Sprat, the Blind Greyhound Who Was Forced to Race, Finds a Loving Home

Two weeks ago I wrote about Jack Sprat, a British greyhound who was forced to race despite the fact that he is blind. Jack's sad story was widely reported in the United Kingdom. According to the Daily Mail:
"When Jack Sprat the greyhound came in last in every race in which he competed, his owners thought they had a dud. But in fact, he did well to keep up with the pack at all because it turns out Jack is almost completely blind and couldn't see the rabbit."
As heartbreaking as this story is, it has a happy end. This morning, the Mirror reported that Jack has found a loving home. He has been adopted by a couple who read about his plight and decided to help him. According to adopter Sue Forrest:
“I wanted to give him a caring home, he is such a beautiful dog. We are amazed at how quickly he has settled in and we feel so lucky we got to look after him.”
Apparently, Jack's challenges are not completely over. According to his new family he has difficulty with loud sounds:
"He is terrified of noise, it reminds him of the race crowds. We cannot take him to town yet as he gets beside himself. He shakes. But Jack is so affectionate."
It is absolutely wonderful that Jack has found a loving family to live with. I wish Jack the best of luck in his new home and would like to congratulate everyone who helped him, including the Mirror, the Dog's Trust, and of course Sue and Adam Forrest.

Your work to help Jack is an inspiration to everyone across the globe who cares about greyhounds and strives to make a difference.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Greyhound Racing Industry "Hall of Fame" Celebrates Controversial Kansas Breeder

Tomorrow, the greyhound racing industry's "Hall of Fame" is scheduled to induct long-time breeder Vince Berland, owner of the Flying Eagle kennel and farm. Over the past twenty-five years, Berland has had a huge influence on the American greyhound racing industry. According to the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle:
"Berland’s impact on National meets has also been significant. The record-breaking sale of Flying Train in 1991 for $56,000 started the ball rolling with big-dollar sales at the auction."
Unfortunately, there is another side to this story.

In 2009, Bantam Press published an autobiography by professional poker player Roy Brindley titled Life's a Gamble. In this book, Mr. Brindley writes that he worked at Vince Berland's farm in the Fall of 1995, and says that his job was to prepare greyhounds owned by Berland for one of the big annual meets:
"My new role was with one of the biggest operations in the US, Flying Eagles Kennels, also in Abilene but on the other side of town. My brief was to train sixty dogs, young puppies, in preparation for just two big races; afterwards they'd be put through a public auction. Their sale price would depend their performance, and I was promised a share of the revenue made from the sale of the dogs by Vince Berland, owner of the operation."
Brindley then writes that things initially went well, and he found the Berlands to be "decent upstanding God-fearing people." After about a week, however, he says that his time at the farm took a turn for the worse. After some of the greyhounds were time tested, Brindley says he overhead a disturbing conversation between Vince Berland, his son Lance and a family friend named Greg, in which Berland directed his friend to kill several greyhounds because their times were not fast enough. Brindley writes:
"Moments later the door into my kennelling area opened and in walked Lance and Greg. I looked at them in total shock, the kind of shock that makes you just stare or gives you an urge to run from the scene, like witnessing a nasty car accident. Surely I had got it all wrong. Surely they weren't going to take these animals to the vet to be put to sleep. The word 'kill'. It was so brutal.
The dogs were taken outside and loaded on to the truck. It did not head out towards the main gates and on to the open road but down a dusty trail towards the far reaches of the ranch. I listened intently, wondering where exactly it was headed, and I could still hear the engine noise as it pulled up again and the engine was turned off. I heard a metal door to one of the dog's compartments on the transporter swing open, violently enough to make a clattering noise, and then, BANG! Moments later, BANG! again, and again and again. Never in my life had I experienced first hand such barbaric behaviour. Those loving, adoring animals had been slaughtered by gunshot."
A few hours later, Brindley says that he went to the location where he heard gunshots, and discovered a pit full of dead greyhounds. Brindley then writes:
"Here was the brutal truth. Any dog considered incapable of winning races was brought down here to be shot. The stench of death got into my clothes and my hair. I can smell it to this day. And what I saw has haunted me ever since."
Brindley says that he went to the National Greyhound Association (NGA) the next day to report what he had seen, but the NGA had no interest in taking action:
"The response was automated, as if it were the sort of thing people normally asked: 'Here at the NGA we are purely a registry organization. We register matings, whelpings, and ownership. That is where our function ends.'"
Brindley further says that he then went to the local sheriff, who told him that what he had seen was not against the law.

I know of no evidence that proves or disproves Mr. Brindley's account of his time at the Flying Eagles farm, but believe his story deserves to be told. If what he writes is true, then tomorrow's induction of Vince Berland into the Greyhound "Hall of Fame" will be a sad day for thousands of greyhounds.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Greyhound News Treats to End the Week

Sadly, Summer has passed and Autumn is here. Nevertheless, as the leaves fall our work to help greyhounds continues. To end this October week, here are a few greyhound news treats.
  • Obviously, I am disappointed by the election of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin in West Virgina, who won by a narrow margin of 50% to 47%. Greyhound breeders are celebrating his victory, which ensures that their multi-million dollar subsidies will continue for the time being. One thing is certain, though: the debate over greyhound racing in West Virginia is only just beginning.
  • In the United Kingdom, a greyhound came in last in every race before it was discovered he is blind. This is a sad story that will hopefully have a happy end. Jack Sprat is an absolutely adorable dog, and is now looking for a loving home.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy Autumn. Before long, Winter will be here!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ten Greyhounds Suffer Broken Legs at Miami Track, Dog Dies from Heart Attack

Anyone who remains undecided about greyhound decoupling in Florida should consider the sad fate of Fuzzys San Jose.

San Jose was a one-year-old fawn greyhound who died at Flagler in Miami on June 4, 2011. During his final race he fell before the escape turn, suffered a heart attack, and died on the track.

According to state records GREY2K USA recently obtained, San Jose was one of fourteen greyhounds who were injured at Flagler between June 4, 2011 and July 12, 2011. Of these, ten greyhounds suffered broken legs, and a greyhound was euthanized after suffering a broken back.

This is the third time in recent months that GREY2K USA has documented serious injuries at a Florida dog track, and follows the disclosure of serious injuries at Ebro Greyhound Park and Sanford Orlando Kennel Club.

This is why we need to pass greyhound decoupling in Florida. Currently, racetracks are required to hold dog races in order to offer other, more profitable, forms of gambling. This linkage makes little sense.

It is important to note that the owners of Flagler have shown leadership in urging Florida lawmakers to end the law linking dog racing to other forms of gambling. Their leadership is one of the reasons why I am optimistic we can pass this important humane bill in the next legislative session.

Even though it is too late to help San Jose, we have the opportunity to help other greyhounds like him. Until we pass greyhound decoupling, countless dogs will continue to suffer and die at racetracks across the Sunshine state.