Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Will Skechers Stand Up for the Real Underdogs, or Ignore Evidence of Cruelty?

With the Super Bowl only twelve days away, Skechers executives have so far refused to pull their advertisement that was filmed at Tucson Greyhound Park. They apparently intend to move forward with this misguided promotion, over the objections of more than 114,000 citizens who have asked them to reconsider.

In defending their decision, Skechers executives have started a campaign of misdirection. They want people to believe that our objection is with the content of the advertisement itself, which they point out, we have not yet seen. Of course, these executives know better. Our objection is not with the content of this proposed spot. The spot might be objectionable, it might not. Instead, our concern is that it was filmed at Tucson Greyhound Park. Tucson is one of the worst dog tracks in the country, and has a dismal record on humane issues. Skechers should be ashamed of their decision to partner with this notorious facility, and deserves to lose customers.

The problems at Tucson are so pervasive that it is difficult to report on all of them. In fact, just in the past few days we have obtained new documents from the Arizona Department of Racing regarding problems at the track.

First, in an official state Operations Report dated January 13, 2012, a state regulator reported that the "Management that operates the track has been sanctioned numerous times" including violations of Arizona Administrative Code, Arizona Statutes, State Department of Racing policies and orders from the Arizona Department of Racing.

Additionally, a series of e-mails we obtained highlights the challenge state officials have in regulating Tucson Greyhound Park. The e-mail exchange is primarily about ongoing problems at the track with parasites. According to Department of Racing Veterinarian Dr. Andy Carlton:
"Department of Racing personnel have worked diligently to inform track management and trainers that there is an ectoparasite problem requiring immediate attention ... the veterinarians have continued to inform responsible parties that the efforts are falling short and that the problem continues to worsen."
Dr. Carlton then goes on to explain why recent attempts to inspect greyhounds that are scheduled to race for parasites had largely failed. However, he expresses optimism that such inspections can address the problem.

In his message, Dr. Carlton was responding to a previous e-mail message by state regulator Daniel Reinerston, who serves as Chief Greyhound Steward at Tucson Greyhound Park. Reinerston had reached out to other regulators to express his frustration at the track's lack of oversight:
"On Monday, October 3rd I arrived at Tucson Greyhound Park (4:45 PM) and there was no vet in the Paddock, no Racing Personnel in the Racing Office and no Track Steward and the greyhounds were just walking through the Paddock at will with no checks at all .."
In a separate message dated December 22, 2011, Reinerston wrote to other regulators to tell them that it had "been a bad/long week at TGP." Unfortunately, he did not provide further details of what problems occurred at the track that led him to send this particular message.

It's not too late for Skechers to do the right thing. It's likely that the company was not aware of the problems at Tucson Greyhound Park when they filmed their ad there. However, they now know about the problems at this cruel facility, and with that knowledge comes a choice.

If Skechers moves forward with their Tucson Greyhound Park ad, it will demonstrate a lack of concern for the humane treatment of animals, and a degree of corporate callousness. In short, moving forward would call into question its willingness to be a good corporate citizen.

On the other hand, Skechers could decide to really side with underdogs everywhere, including the greyhounds now living at Tucson Greyhound Park. By scuttling their proposed ad, the company can send a message that it takes the humane treatment of animals seriously.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hundreds of Greyhounds Injured at the Canidrome Racetrack in Macau

Over the last few months, GREY2K USA has been working with a coalition of animal protection groups from all over the world in an effort to help the greyhounds currently racing at the Canidrome track in Macau.

For the most part, our campaign has focused on the fact that the Canidrome has no adoption program, and all the dogs who race at the track are eventually killed. To address this problem, we have asked track management to let us rescue a single dog, named Brooklyn. If we are able to send Brooklyn home to Australia, his adoption can be a test case and help us determine if all the Canidrome greyhounds can be saved.

It turns out, however, that the death of young greyhounds is only one of the humane problems in Macau. Sadly, hundreds of greyhounds also suffer serious injuries at the facility.

Our research team, led by GREY2K USA Research Director Amelia Cook, closely examined the track's own records between October and December 2011. The results of our analysis were shocking:
The records also tell sad stories of individual greyhounds who suffered at the Canidrome. For example, a two-year-old black greyhound named Grove Enforcer suffered shoulder muscle myositis and wrist sprains on November 14, 2011. Only four weeks later, she suffered a broken leg and was recommended to “retire permanently."

Our analysis also provides new information about the general population of greyhounds now racing in Macau. For the first time, we know that 93% of the greyhounds are less than five years old, most of the dogs are female, and most of the greyhounds have black as their primary coat color.

This new data is being widely reported, and covered by news organizations like the South China Morning Post and the Macau Daily Times. We are grateful for these reports, and are hopeful that this new information will lead to positive changes at the Canidrome.

However, time is running short. If the track continues with these destructive policies, the Macau government should intervene. There have already been discussions about removing the track's slot machines, and that might be a good way to get the attention of track management. If the Canidrome managers are not going to be good corporate citizens, they should pay a heavy price for their failure.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More Proof That the Greyhound Industry's Adoption Claims are a Myth

A few days ago, I wrote about the bogus adoption statistics being promoted by the National Greyhound Association. For years, the NGA has falsely claimed that the overwhelming majority of greyhounds are adopted, and that this number now reaches "nearly 95%."

Thankfully, the truth began to come out last month, when the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Greyhound Association responded to a question from an adoption advocate in Colorado, who wanted to know what statistics are available on the ultimate fate of racing dogs. In his answer, the NGA spokesperson admitted that they don't actually know what happens to greyhounds when their racing careers are over. Specifically, he wrote:
"No cumulative annual records are available that we're aware of on disposition, whelped, where they race, where they end up, etc."
Now, there is even more proof that the greyhound racing industry's adoption claims are completely made up. Shortly after my post went up, a greyhound adoption advocate named John Parker was asked a similar question on Facebook. Until recently, Parker was the national Vice President of Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), the largest adoption organization in the country. GPA is partly funded by the industry and does not speak out against greyhound racing. In other words, as the largest industry-funded group GPA is in a unique position to know whether these adoption claims are true or not.

When he was asked directly, here is what Parker said about adoption statistics:
"Unfortunately there is no central clearinghouse of statistics on the number of greyhounds adopted and euthanized."
Incredibly, he then acknowledged that the NGA's estimates are driven by their agenda:
"Any 'percentage adopted' or 'numbers put down' you see is just an estimate, often agenda-driven (even the NGA's)."
Finally, he ended by arguing that it is likely that the number of greyhounds being killed is declining, but there is ultimately no way of knowing for sure:
"My own sense of it is that the number of healthy, adoptable Greyhounds that are euthanized is in rapid decline, but I wouldn't venture a guess. Since putting down healthy greyhounds at the end of their professional careers is so widely discouraged and even condemned nowadays, it's no doubt a practice that's carried on in a very low-key if not secretive way."
Mr. Parker and I have fundamental disagreements about the merits of the greyhound racing industry. Nonetheless, on this point I agree with him. There are no actual statistics on the ultimate fate of racing dogs. The statistics being touted by greyhound breeders are completely made up, and are "agenda-driven." Further, while it is likely that the number of greyhounds being euthanized is declining, without real statistics there is no real way of knowing for sure.

The National Greyhound Association should never again be allowed to cite these bogus statistics without being challenged. They have already been allowed to tell this lie for far too long.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

National Greyhound Association Admits They Don't Know What Happens to Dogs

Yesterday, the Wichita Eagle published a letter from Gary Guccione, one of the nation's most prominent supporters of dog racing.

Guccione, who is the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Greyhound Association (NGA), was responding to a pro-greyhound letter published days earlier by GREY2K USA Board Member Caryn Wood. The NGA is an organization that was formed decades ago to support the dog racing industry.

Guccione argued that "racing greyhounds are among the best-cared for animals in the world," and claimed that they know exactly how many greyhounds are adopted out each year. Specifically, he wrote:
"Almost 95 percent of all racing greyhounds are either adopted or returned to the farm when they retire."
This would be good news for greyhounds, if it were only true. There is only one problem: it isn't. In fact, just seven weeks ago the same Gary Guccione told a completely different story to a Colorado adoption advocate.

Specifically, Guccione was asked about what happens to greyhounds that are bred in Colorado. His message was forwarded to us when we were asked for the same information. When Guccione was put on the spot, here is what he wrote:
"No cumulative annual records are available that we're aware of on disposition, whelped, where they race, where they end up, etc."
Finally, we hear the truth. The National Greyhound Association has absolutely no idea how many greyhounds are adopted each year and how many are euthanized. Sadly, greyhounds are not being tracked by anyone and their ultimate fate is completely unknown.

The NGA's 95% adoption claim is a myth that dog racing supporters have been perpetuating for years, a false statement they have made over and over again in an attempt to defend this cruel industry. From this point forward, the NGA should be challenged every time they make statements on greyhound adoption. They are clearly not a reliable source.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seven Greyhound Wishes for the New Year

Last January, I wrote about my seven wishes for the greyhounds in 2011. Some of these wishes came true, while others did not. Nonetheless, there's no doubt that greyhound protection advocates had a great year.

I'm hoping 2012 will be an even better year for the greyhounds. With that in mind, let's get to my seven wishes for the greyhounds in 2012.

1. Greyhound decoupling bills in Florida, Arizona and Iowa finally cross the finish line.

The big story of 2011 was the emergence of greyhound decoupling as a legislative issue. In Florida, a greyhound decoupling bill passed both the House and Senate by large margins and nearly became law. Similarly, the Arizona House overwhelmingly supported greyhound decoupling before the measure died in the Senate. In Iowa, a decoupling bill was introduced for the second consecutive year and was debated throughout the session.

In 2012, state lawmakers should finally pass these humane measures. They are common sense bills that will help thousands of greyhounds.

2. Interest in greyhound racing continues to decline, causing fewer dogs to suffer.

Greyhound racing continued to decline in 2011, a trend that will hopefully continue. Without question, the industry is at its lowest point. For example:3. Even more greyhounds are adopted and fewer dogs are euthanized.

As tracks close across the country, fewer greyhounds are bred into the racing system and fewer dogs need homes. That is a positive trend, and makes it easier for non-profit adoption groups to help these wonderful dogs.

Every greyhound that is adopted is a dog that is not euthanized, something we should all be grateful for.

4. Brooklyn the greyhound is rescued, starting a new chapter at the Canidrome in Macau.

Nearly two months have passed since we wrote to the Canidrome management, asking for the release of Brooklyn the greyhound. Even though the track has not yet formally responded, I remain hopeful that in the end Brooklyn will be saved.

Of course, this story is not just about Brooklyn. It is about all the greyhounds who are dying at the Canidrome. It is time for all of these dogs to be given a life after racing, a life they truly deserve.

5. Gulf Greyhound Park in Texas closes permanently.

At the last remaining dog track in Texas, hundreds of greyhounds endure lives of confinement and suffer serious injuries. Since 2008, more than 1,300 greyhound injuries have been reported at the track, including dogs that suffered broken legs, puncture wounds, paralysis and a fractured skull. During the same period, 49 greyhounds died or were euthanized.

According to published reports greyhound racing is dying in the Lone Star state, as it is everywhere else. The end of dog racing at Gulf couldn't come fast enough for the dogs, who are being injured on a daily basis.

6. Earl Ray Tomblin fails to win a full term as West Virginia Governor.

In West Virginia, greyhound racing only exists today because the law requires that dog races be subsidized with millions in casino gambling profits. This requirement makes little sense, and should end.

It's a sure bet, however, that this wrongheaded policy will continue as long as Earl Ray Tomblin serves as Governor. Because Tomblin's mother and brother are prominent greyhound breeders, he will undoubtedly continue to support this cruel industry. It would be good for greyhounds, and good for the state, if he was denied a full term as West Virginia Governor next November.

7. Greyhound advocacy continues to grow as a global movement.

All over the world, people are speaking out for greyhounds in new ways. Over the last year, we have seen increasing opposition to greyhound racing in China, the United Kingdom, Australia, India and many other countries. My hope is that this trend will continue, until there is a worldwide chorus of humane voices calling for dog racing to end.