Wednesday, February 29, 2012

While Greyhound Racing Dies in Most Countries, New Tracks May Open in Vietnam

Last month, a businessman named Nguyen Ngoc My announced that he intends to build greyhound racetracks throughout the country, starting with a track in Ha Tinh Province. This expansion occurs at the same time that dog racing is dying in most parts of the world, and raises significant concerns about the welfare of greyhounds that compete in Vietnam.

My opened the first Vietnamese dog track,
Lam Son Stadium, in 2000 after being granted a 25 year license. He has also been granted a 30 year license for greyhound racing in neighboring Cambodia, and is working to introduce dog racing there. According to a published report in the Viet Nam News, the track originally imported greyhounds from Australia but now operates as an independent breeding facility:
"Since 2000, My has imported 200 greyhound dogs from Australia, which have given birth to 400 dogs. Around 350 of the total of 600 dogs take part in races. His centre is the only one of its kind if Asia."
Yesterday, GREY2K USA Board Member Charmaine Settle returned from Vietnam, where she investigated the dog racing industry. She took the photographs in this post, and we will soon release a detailed report on her visit. Charmaine did indicate that there appears to be no greyhound adoption effort there.

In addition, in the last few days a local advocate named Lisa Warden has posted two videos on YouTube that she says are of the Vietnamese dog racing industry. According to Lisa, the first video documents the racetrack kennel at Lam Son Stadium, while the second video documents the way in which greyhounds are transported in Vietnam.

As dog racing ends in the United States and elsewhere, greyhound breeders have falsely claimed that this positive trend could somehow lead to an expansion of dog racing elsewhere. This is patently false. The sad reality is that if there are places in the world where greyhound racing can be profitable, then people will try to take advantage of these beautiful dogs for their own benefit. That will happen irregardless of what is happening in the United States or the United Kingdom.

As a humane community, we should be concerned about greyhounds suffering wherever it occurs, whether it is in Tucson, Arizona or Vung Tau Vietnam. To truly help greyhounds, we must join together as a global community and support each other, until dog racing ends everywhere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Decline of Dog Racing Industry Continues

GREY2K USA has received updated data on the number of dogs registered to race, and the statistics are good news for greyhound advocates.

In 2011, a total of 11,759 greyhounds were registered to compete in the United States. This is the lowest total in decades, and represents an 8% decrease from 2010. In short, fewer greyhounds are being bred to race.

This is wonderful news, and will directly benefit dogs. As a result of this registration decrease, it is very likely that fewer greyhounds will be killed than ever before. This reduction also means that fewer greyhounds will endure lives of confinement and suffer serious injuries.

Of course, this decline also provides more evidence that dog racing is a dying industry. In fact, as of December 2011 the National Greyhound Association (NGA) had only 1,460 members nationwide, and their membership has declined by 12% over the last year.

Greyhound breeders often make outrageous claims about the effect dog racing has on local economies. The fact is, however, that greyhound racing is no longer economically relevant. Dog racing is a thing of the past, and this reality is reflected by the NGA's low membership.

For greyhound advocates, these new statistics are encouragement that dog racing's days are numbered. For the greyhounds themselves, the end of this cruel industry couldn't come fast enough.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dog Racing Promoters Spin Dangerous Adoption Policy While Threats Continue

The dog racing industry is working overtime to defend their wrongheaded adoption policy, which discourages people from adopting from any group that speaks up for the dogs.

Yesterday, the American Greyhound Council (AGC), which serves as the industry's public relations arm, tried to put a positive spin on this dangerous policy. Specifically, the AGC claimed that their new policy is merely "preferring to work with moderate adoption organizations that take a cooperative, constructive approach."

Of course, for the dog racing industry a "cooperative, constructive approach" means adhering to its code of silence. The message that is being sent is very clear: if greyhound adoption groups speak up for the dogs or advocate for their welfare in any way, they will face retribution.

Meanwhile, other members of the dog racing industry are doubling down on their rhetoric about greyhound adoption. One pro-industry blog even posted a troubling message yesterday that included a reference to valuing "your greyhound:"
"If you value your greyhound, think first before you get a greyhound from an anti-racing group."
Finally, in an attempt to distract attention from this dangerous policy, greyhound breeders have begun to fabricate statements about greyhound adoption. For example, dog racing supporters have been circulating a purported "quote" they claim was made by GREY2K USA Board Member Eric Jackson. Eric is a long-time greyhound adoption advocate who serves as a volunteer for Greyhound Companions of New Mexico. According to dog racing supporters, Eric stated that "GREY2K USA is going to continue working to stop the flow of racing greyhounds into adoption."

This is a perversion of his actual statement. In reality, here is what Eric said:
"Clearly we have a substantial difference of opinion about the racing of greyhounds. I'm pleased that you continue to find homes for former racers, as we do. And if you want to actually reach the stated goal of 100% adoption, there are any number of anti-racing groups who are ready, willing, and able to help. Meanwhile, GREY2K USA is going to continue working to stop the flow of racing greyhounds into adoption by stopping the industry that breeds them without sufficient plans to rehome them."
As you can see, what Eric actually said is the exact opposite of what dog racing supporters are now claiming. I suppose we should expect this kind of political trickery from the dog racing industry, which has proven time and again that it is more interested in profits than in animal welfare.

The bottom line is that there are many wonderful adoption groups that have the courage to speak up for the dogs, and these non-profit organizations help thousands of greyhounds. One good example is the National Greyhound Adoption Program, which has adopted out more than 7,000 rescued greyhounds since its formation. Those 7,000 greyhounds would be killed, rather than find homes, under the dangerous policy now being promoted by the racing industry.

Greyhound adoption should be an area where we all put aside our differences and work together. Neither side of the dog racing debate should politicize greyhound adoption, but instead seek common ground. Sadly, those who promote dog racing are primarily interested in greyhound adoption as a public relations tool. In their own words, they want adoption groups that will be "cooperative" with their cruel industry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Dog Racing Industry's Code of Silence

Last week, I wrote about how the Iowa Greyhound Association (IGA) asked people to not adopt from any group that speaks up for the greyhounds.

We have now discovered that this is not a random act by Iowa greyhound breeders, but instead is apparently part of an overall strategy by the greyhound racing industry to enforce a code of silence.

Shortly after I posted about the IGA's dangerous adoption policy, Iowa greyhound breeders posted a response on their website by Marsha Kelly. Ms. Kelly is a political operative who works for the dog racing industry, and has a reputation for scorched-earth tactics. Just in the past few weeks, she has publicly referred to the Governor of Arizona as a "whacked out bitch" and called the Governor of Wisconsin a "weasel."

In her response for the IGA, Kelly restated the dog racing industry's myth about adoption statistics, made various false claims about GREY2K USA, and stated:
"The success of our adoption effort has never and will never depend on the participation of a handful of extremely hostile 'anti-racing' groups. We don't need to depend on the hate-mongers."
Sadly, this wrongheaded attempt to stop people from adopting greyhounds could have real consequences. Despite what Ms. Kelly would have people believe, greyhounds are still being killed when they are no longer profitable. Just a few days ago, dog racing supporter and adoption advocate Pam Davis acknowledged this fact on Facebook:
"There are a lot of dogs not accounted for and we know where some of them went (not to homes)."
In the same discussion thread, a volunteer for Greyhound Pets of America Emerald Coast made a similar statement:
"PE is still euthanizing perfectly healthy dogs. We try to take every one of them but track politics betwn (sic) trainers makes that impossible for us."
Meanwhile, another adoption advocate with links to the industry claimed that healthy greyhounds are not only killed at low end tracks, but also at high-level racing facilities:
"I could throw out names ... but all I would end up with is a lawsuit. It's definitely not 100% even at top tracks."
This last statement is particularly troubling, and goes to the heart of the issue. Even some members of the dog racing industry know that greyhounds are being killed, and want to see change. They don't speak out, however, because they are afraid of facing retribution. According to dog racing supporter Myke Stewart:
"I can't say much of anything here, since I still have family with viable interests in the racing industry and would do NOTHING to jeopardize their standing or jobs."
That is the real game that is being played. The greyhound racing industry and its spin doctors, like Marsha Kelly, are apparently willing to go to any lengths to hide the truth about their cruel practices. For years, they have intimidated industry members who seek change, and are now doing the same thing to any greyhound adoption group that speaks up for the dogs.

This behavior is outrageous, and proves yet again that the greyhound racing industry is willing to put its financial interests ahead of animal welfare. On this issue, I agree with a comment made by adoption volunteer Julie Richardson Costello, who was responding to some of the statements cited above:
"For crying out loud. Be the voice for those that cannot speak. Sounds like the pathetic Penn State scandal. All the witnesses and ears looking the other way."
Well said, Julie. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Study: Greyhound Training Causes Bone Density Changes and Microfractures

Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand just completed a five-year study of issues related to the greyhound racing industry. Not surprisingly, their conclusions provide even more evidence that dog racing is cruel and inhumane.

According to an abstract for the study, which was conducted between 2007 and 2011:
"We identified that hock injuries were the single most important cause of catastrophic failure and dog loss. The combination of training practices, questionable feeding practices, and the suspicion of stress-induced fractures was also a significant cause of dog loss."
In particular, the study found that training and racing on an oval track actually changes a greyhound's bone density, and results in microfractures:
"An initial subjective assessment has revealed asymmetry between the bone density of the left/right central tarsal bones, as the result of track running, and increases in bone volume and density following training. Also, microfractures appear to result during training."
Finally, and perhaps most notably, the study found that the bone density changes that take place during training may cause greyhounds to be predisposed to a later catastrophic injury:
"We are uncovering the early changes in bone that occur after the onset of training, and which may predispose it to catastrophic fracture later."
Greyhound breeders often claim that catastrophic injuries are mere accidents they are not responsible for. In their own words, a broken leg is "no big deal." This new study provides even more evidence that this is simply not the case. Catastrophic greyhound injuries are an entirely predictable result of this cruel industry. As long as dog racing continues, thousands of greyhounds will suffer broken legs and die on the track.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Greyhound Breeders Use Adoption as a Weapon in Bid to Save Cruel Dog Racing

In state legislatures across the country, bills to reduce or eliminate greyhound racing are moving forward. This is wonderful news for greyhound advocates, and is further proof that the end of dog racing is inevitable.

This positive momentum, however, has once again caused greyhound breeders to resort to the worst kind of scorched-earth tactics. The most egregious example of their desperation is from Iowa, where dog racing supporters are now telling people not to adopt greyhounds from any organization that speaks up for the dogs.

In the current edition of its newsletter, the Iowa Greyhound Association (IGA) published a rambling, full-page diatribe urging greyhound adopters to support the continuation of the industry. This is not surprising, because the IGA represents greyhound breeders. They have a direct financial interest in defeating the common sense legislation now pending in the Hawkeye State, which would both end greyhound racing and eliminate millions in annual subsidies dog racing supporters now receive.

What is shocking, however, is the means that greyhound breeders are using to try to preserve their multi-million dollar subsidy. To start with, the IGA tries to use the personal connection greyhound adopters have with the dogs they have rescued to perpetuate the cruelty of greyhound racing:
"Look at your pet. Now look ahead to the future and your current pet is gone. You want another greyhound. But all there are to choose from are AKC registered greyhounds and they are like $2,000 for a puppy! They still have some racing in Ireland and Australia, but whoa ... JetPets is expensive."
I suppose if this were a television drama, we would be seeing dark storm clouds and listening to dramatic music just about now. Continuing with the IGA sales pitch:
"You also loved to buy your heart hound collars for the holidays, a nice bed and a comfy coat. You loved buying all things greyhound. You loved the discussion groups, even though the fighting got to you once in a while. And shopping at Dewey Beach! That was the greatest vacation ... ever. Now it is all over. The tracks are gone ... the farms are gone. All the adoption groups are gone."
After all this emotional nonsense, the IGA then tries to close the deal:
"This is reality. This IS the way it will be if YOU make bad choices. Don't be a sheep."
Finally, the IGA makes the most shocking statement of all:
"Do not adopt from groups who are against the industry."
For decades, greyhound breeders have used these dogs for their own personal financial gain. For most of the industry's existence, they simply killed the dogs when they were no longer profitable. In recent years they have started to pawn dogs off on adoption groups, allowing the dogs to find homes and have a second life. This is certainly an improvement, but does not address the underlying problems in the industry, including the cruel housing system the industry uses and the large number of dogs that are injured while racing.

Now, the same greyhound breeders who have asked adoption groups to clean up after them want the rescue community to be thankful. Even worse, they want to cut off adoptions by any group that has the courage to speak up for the dogs. This manipulative behavior should not come as a surprise, but is shocking nonetheless. This political tactic could directly result in greyhounds not being adopted, an outcome that is apparently not important to the IGA.

Dog racing is cruel and inhumane, and is going to end. When it does, thousands of greyhounds will no longer endure lives of confinement and suffer serious injuries. Further, I have a feeling that many of the people who currently rescue greyhounds are looking forward to the day when they no longer have to clean up after irresponsible greyhound breeders. I'm sure they have many other important things in their life they would like to do, and other noble causes to pursue.

It's also important to note that the greyhound breed has existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, long before the dog racing industry. The notion that greyhounds are dependent on this cruel industry is pure nonsense.

The end of greyhound racing will be a victory for everyone who cares about dogs. Beneath their manipulative tactics, even the greyhound breeders know this. That is why I am confident their political tricks will not work. In the end, the greyhounds will overcome.