Wednesday, May 30, 2012

GREY2K USA Honors Greyhound Adoption Heroes

Board Member Tom Grey with Joyce Carta & Marilyn Varnberg
This weekend, I joined the GREY2K USA Board of Directors in honoring greyhound adoption leaders from around the country.  Their work was the focus of our annual benefit dinner and awards ceremony, which was held in Tampa, Florida.

It was incredibly powerful to be with so many people who have dedicated their lives to helping greyhounds.  Thousands of dogs have found loving homes as a direct result of their efforts, and they are true heroes.  The adoption advocates we honored included:
These adoption leaders have also been fearless in speaking out for the dogs, and need your support.  If you live near any of these groups, please consider volunteering some of your time with them.  Also, all of these groups need donations to help their ongoing adoption programs.

Finally, the best way to honor these selfless advocates is to consider adopting a greyhound yourself.  To find an adoption group near you, please visit our Greyhound Adoption page.

If you are able to take home a new greyhound friend, you will be glad you did.  My rescued greyhound Zoe brings me joy each and every day!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Decision Delayed on Future of London Greyhound Track, Public Officials Receive Death Threats

In London, the future of the iconic Walthamstow greyhound track was delayed this week when Mayor Boris Johnson announced that he has not yet received paperwork for a proposal to turn the track into affordable housing.  The Mayor was expected to make a decision this week on the future of the track.

Meanwhile, the Guardian is reporting that one of the planning officials who voted for the housing plan has received death threats.  Their report quotes Waltham Forest Council Chief Executive Martin Esom, who says that a "direct threat of physical violence" was made against the family of a councillor.  Their report also states:
"After the decision a small group of furious campaigners ran up to the table where the councillors were sitting and shouted at them while pointing in their faces."
From the very beginning, dog racing supporters have run a campaign of misinformation and intimidation in an effort to revive greyhound racing at Walthamstow.  These death threats, however, cross the line and are another reason why the Mayor should let the housing proposal move forward.  If Mayor Johnson sides with dog racing supporters and overturns the proposal, he will send a dangerous message that these kind of tactics can work.

I agree with Council Chief Executive Esom, who called this intimidation "unacceptable criminal activity."  Now Mayor Johnson needs to make it clear which side he is on.  Does he support affordable housing, or will he side with dog racing supporters who use threats and intimidation to get their way?

If you haven't already, please e-mail Mayor Boris Johnson today at  Tell him that greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane, and should not be allowed to return to Walthamstow.  It's important that he hear from everyone who cares about greyhounds.  Then, we can all find out which side he is on.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tucson Greyhound Park Issued Warning by State Regulators on Poor Track Conditions

Bella Kingnarmer suffered a serious injury at TGP in May 2009
Last month, I wrote about poor track conditions at Tucson Greyhound Park.  Sadly, newly received state records indicate that nothing has changed at this low-end track.

According to an official Arizona Department of Racing Stewards Report dated April 17, 2012, state regulators recently issued a warning to Tucson Greyhound Park over poor track conditions and equipment problems.  The Report indicates that a race was delayed due to a starting box "not being worked and or fixed" and states:
"Tucson Greyhound Park Racing Department was warned that 'no race will run from any distance not properly worked, nor will there be time allowed to work the shutes that are not in race ready conditions.' Duties that involve readiness of the track/repair of equipment that is used that night should be addressed early or at a reasonable time that will not interfere with the racing operation."
Three days later on April 20, another Stewards Report stated that a "penny sized piece of glass" and "three golf ball sized rocks" were found on the track before a race.  A week later, state officials reported finding three more "golf ball sized rocks" on the track along with a "pocket knife sized piece of hard rubber."

It is inexcusable for the track to neglect its racing surface in this way.  Even some greyhound trainers are outraged by the track's negligence in this area.  As I reported previously, state records indicate that one kennel owner recently reached out directly to state officials to express her frustration:
"Donna Mann called the Stewards off the roof to talk about the out of control injuries.  She has a list of 17 injuries which she gave to management, the racing office, and left copies in the racing office."
Thanks to the Arizona legislature, Tucson Greyhound Park now has the legal ability to hold fewer races and even end greyhound racing completely.  The question now is whether track management will take advantage of this new law, or continue with the cruel status quo.

It's certainly in the track's interest to begin winding down live greyhound racing.  If TGP refuses to make changes, in the end the humane community may have no choice but to move forward with a proposal to end all forms of gambling on greyhound racing in the state.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Help Push London Greyhound Campaign Over the Finish Line

A British greyhound kennel. Photo by Greytexploitations, 2011.
Last week, greyhound advocates in London won a major victory when a proposal to build affordable housing at the former Walthamstow dog track was approved.  The approval of this housing plan means the end is finally near for one of the most prominent dog tracks in the United Kingdom.

There is, however, one last chapter in this important debate.  Next week, London Mayor Boris Johnson will weigh in on the approved housing application.  The Mayor has the power to reject the plan, which would give hope to dog racing supporters that the track can be reopened.

Countless dogs suffered and died at Walthamstow.  Greyhound advocates from all over the world should be grateful that the track is closed, and may soon serve a new purpose in the community.  At the same time, we must all send Mayor Johnson a clear message that dog racing is cruel and inhumane and the track should not be reopened.

This fight is critically important to the future of dog racing in Britain, and should be a priority for greyhound advocates all over the world.  Please do three things today to help the Walthamstow campaign:
  1. Please sign this petition by Greyhound Safe, urging Mayor Boris Johnson to not support a reintroduction of dog racing at Walthamstow.  More than 1,500 people have signed this petition in only a few days, but I know we can do better than that.
  2. Please e-mail the mayor directly at and tell him why dog racing is cruel and inhumane.
  3. Finally, please watch this powerful video by Greyteploitations to learn more about why Walthamstow should remain closed.  Then, forward this video on to others.
As a global community, we can have an impact on this important debate.  Please join me in helping this effort.  The greyhounds can't speak for themselves, and are counting on us to be their voice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Greyhound Advocates Win Two Major Victories

I'm happy to announce that greyhound advocates have just won two major victories!

GREY2K USA just received the news that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed a measure to reduce racing at Tucson Greyhound Park.  Under the previous law, the track was forced to hold races year-round.  However, moving forward the track will only be required to hold races on 100 days per year.  Even better, the track can end greyhound racing completely if they enter into a contract with kennel owners.

This is a huge step forward for Arizona's greyhounds.  One humane problem after another has been documented at the Tucson track, and it would be wonderful for racing to decrease at this low-end facility.

Of course, it will now be up to Tucson Greyhound Park management to decide whether or not they will take advantage of this new law.  Either way, the humane community will continue fighting for the greyhounds.

Meanwhile, half a world away greyhound advocates have won a major victory in London.  On Tuesday night, a proposal to build housing on the site of the iconic Walthamstow dog track was approved by a vote of 4-3.  Dog racing supporters, who want racing to return to the track, reacted angrily to the vote according to Guardian reporter Daniel Binns:
"Furious scenes here ... members of the crowd have gone up to shout at the councillors who voted in favour of the plans."
Greyhound Safe

This angry response is not surprising, when you consider the fact that these are the same dog track supporters who expect to be subsidized by the government.

The Walthamstow vote is a major victory for the greyhounds, and is due in part to the hard work of advocacy groups like Greyhound Safe and Greytexploitations.

Jett raced 150 times in AZ
As big as this victory is, however, there is one final round left in the Walthamstow greyhound debate.  Dog track supporters have asked London Mayor Boris Johnson to intervene and overrule the housing vote, and media reports indicate that the Mayor is expected to make a decision within two weeks.

It would be outrageous for the Mayor put the interests of dog track supporters ahead of affordable housing, and I'm hopeful he will make a humane choice.

These two victories prove that the global fight for greyhounds is continuing to gain momentum.  Greyhound racing goes against our mainstream values, and these victories should give us hope that dog racing will eventually end completely.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More than Eight Hundred Greyhound Injuries Reported at West Virginia Tracks, Forty Dogs Die

JA's Angry Sky suffered a broken leg in June 2011
This morning, GREY2K USA released an analysis of greyhound injury reports we received from the West Virginia Racing Commission, covering the entire year 2011.  During this time period, a total of 855 greyhound injuries were reported by the state, including dogs that suffered broken legs, lacerations, tears and dislocations.  More than two hundred greyhounds suffered career-ending injuries, and forty dogs died or were euthanized.

Our analysis was reported by the Charleston Daily Mail, and is being covered by news outlets across the country.  I'm grateful for this reporting, but am heartbroken that dogs are still dying at West Virginia racetracks.  This is not a new problem, and in fact greyhounds have been dying for years at two tracks in the state, Wheeling Island and Mardi Gras.

These dogs are more than just statistics.  It's tragic that Iruska IC Beauty, a brindle greyhound who was only two years old when she died, will never know the comfort of a loving family and permanent home.  Instead her life ended on April 16, 2011, when she suffered a spinal injury during a race at Mardi Gras.

Sadly, it appears that there is no immediate end in sight for fatal injuries like the death of Iruska IC Beauty.  West Virginia tracks have taken some measures to reduce injuries in recent years, and should be applauded for those actions.  It's now clear, however, that these improvements will not significantly address this issue.  Instead, track surface changes have merely trimmed around the edges of a continuing problem.

It's also also clear that the West Virginia Racing Commission is not committed to taking further action.  In an interview with the Daily Mail, Commission Director of Racing Jon Amores said that people "enjoy" the races and those who believe greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane should simply not attend:
"We know that this, like a lot of other similar activities, people ascribe a moral component to it - whether it be greyhound racing or gambling or anything that goes on at Mardi Gras - and we're unsurprised that they take that position and we disagree and we know that there are a lot of patrons that enjoy it and for those that don't, certainly no one is forcing them to participate."
I agree with Mr. Amores that humane minded citizens should opt to not "participate" by attending dog races.  There is a fundamental flaw in his reasoning, however.  The fact is, dog racing only exists in West Virginia today because greyhound breeders are being heavily subsidized with millions in casino gambling profits.  Also, the tracks are also forced to continue holding races as a requirement of their gambling licenses.  This policy of mandate and subsidize means that dog racing will continue indefinitely in West Virginia, regardless of how many people are attending races or betting on their outcomes.

Finally, it's crystal clear that the tracks will not address this problem themselves.  That reality is evident in comments made by track owner Dan Adkins to the Daily Mail.  Despite the fact that more than 500 injuries were reported at Mardi Gras in 2011, including fifteen dogs that died, Adkins told the newspaper that the track was doing "pretty damn good" when it came to injuries.  He also dismissed the problem by saying the injuries were "not all career ending."  This rationalization is cold comfort for the dogs that died at his track, like Iruska IC Beauty.

The bottom line is that until the law is changed hundreds of greyhounds will continue to be seriously injured, and die, in West Virginia.  Everyone who cares about dogs should be appalled by this situation, and should contact their state lawmakers to ask for their support in ending greyhound racing.  Otherwise, it's a sure bet that a year from now I will be writing about the hundreds of dogs that were injured, and the dogs that died, at West Virginia tracks in 2012.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

National Greyhound Association Losing Fight Over Dog Protections in Home State of Kansas

Photo by Kansas City REGAP
In Kansas, most dogs are protected by the state Pet Animal Act.  This law requires that dog breeders be licensed and undergo routine inspections.  It also mandates minimum standards of care, including a requirement that shelters euthanize animals only through modern methods.  This good law is hardly radical, and some of its provisions date back nearly forty years.  It does not, however, currently apply to greyhounds.

For years, the National Greyhound Association has fought hard to ensure that greyhounds remain exempt from the Pet Animal Act.  Until this year, the group has succeeded in ensuring that greyhounds don't receive these basic legal protections.  This year, however, things might turn out differently.

A proposal now moving through the legislature, House Bill 2596, would eliminate the greyhound exemption in the Pet Animal Act.  The bill has already been approved by both the state House and Senate, and is now waiting for one final procedural vote before going to Governor Sam Brownback for his signature.

HB 2596 is not perfect.  Even though greyhound breeders have so far been unable to prevent its passage, they were able to win a compromise.  In place of the greyhound exemption, new language will be added which states that the Pet Protection Act will not apply to any farm or kennel that is registered with and inspected by the National Greyhound Association.  Although this is a setback, the new language will also give the Agriculture Commissioner some authority to inspect greyhound breeding facilities.

Even with this compromise, HB 2596 is a step in the right direction.  I'm hopeful that it will become law, and Kansas greyhounds will finally be given a few more protections.

Finally, it's curious that greyhound breeders have fought so hard against this humane change.  It makes you wonder, what exactly do Kansas greyhound breeders have to hide?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

British Greyhound Trainers Decry Government Subsidies, While Asking for Handouts Themselves

In a few days, a local planning committee in East London will rule on a proposal to build affordable housing at the former Walthamstow dog track.  If the housing application is approved, it will mark the end of a sad chapter for dogs in London.  Countless greyhounds suffered catastrophic injuries at the facility during the decades it was open, and every dog lover should hope that the housing application is approved.

A local campaign by greyhound trainers, however, is continuing to push for the track to be reopened.  After Walthamstow closed in 2008 a group of trainers, including Ricky Holloway, formed Save Our Stow (SOS).  Since then, SOS has reached out to community leaders, politicians and the media in an effort to revive dog racing at the track.

These greyhound trainers have the right to push for a return of dog racing, even though they are advocating for a policy that would be disastrous.  Their push, however, has become little more than a campaign of misinformation.  For example, mainstream animal protection groups, including the League Against Cruel Sports and Dogs Trust, had to correct the record last year after SOS supporters falsely claimed they were working to reopen the track.  Meanwhile, the Green Party constituent candidate for Waltham Forest in London, Caroline Allen, has also weighed in on the SOS campaign:
"SOS have cleverly tried to portray themselves as a community organisation, in fact they are a pro-racing body."

Allen also raised common sense concerns about the SOS proposal to return dog racing at Walthamstow:
"These seem to have some significant shortcomings of their own, even if you set aside the economic illiteracy and animal welfare nightmare that is the return of greyhound racing."
Incidentally, later this week London citizens will head to the polls and local dog lovers would do well by casting their ballot for Allen.

Meanwhile, in the final days of the Walthamstow debate the SOS campaign has sunk to its lowest level yet.  The group is now claiming that the housing proposal should be rejected because it could eventually require taxpayer funding.  According to a March 29 statement from the group:
"Saveourstow has been saying for ages that L&Q’s scheme is non-viable-they will lose £30m of part public money should they build their development."

Londoners should be skeptical of this claim, which after all is being made by a group of greyhound trainers with a direct financial interest in the proposal being rejected.  The statement is also deeply ironic, in light of the fact that the same greyhound trainers want government subsidies for their businesses.

On February 25, SOS spokesperson Ricky Holloway said on live television that he wanted to "get funding from central government" to subsidize dog racing.  Also, when he was asked about how he would turn around the fate of the dog racing industry, which is clearly dying, he said:
"I would go knocking on government's door."

That's right.  Apparently, there are two Ricky Holloways.  One Ricky Hollway is a fiscal conservative who doesn't think the government should subsidize housing.  Meanwhile, the other Ricky Holloway wants to "go knocking on government's door" and ask for a taxpayer bailout for greyhound trainers.  In light of this hypocrisy, perhaps the SOS campaign should be renamed.  Rather than Save Our Stow, they would be more aptly called Subsidize Our Sport.

Hopefully, elected officials in London will see through this smokescreen and do the right thing by approving the Walthamstow housing proposal.

The lives of greyhounds could depend on it.