Thursday, August 30, 2012

Covering Up the Death of a Nameless Greyhound

Camby the greyhound
According to state records, two greyhound trainers and an assistant trainer have been suspended at Southland Greyhound Park after they failed to report the death of a dog. The greyhound, which is not named in official records, died while being transported to the track to race.

Here is what the records show regarding this tragic incident:
  • On April 14, 2012 a kennel at Southland received seventeen dogs. When the hauler arrived at the facility, it was discovered that one greyhound had died during the trip.
  • After the dead dog was discovered, assistant trainer Will Rogers and greyhound trainer Gerald Love transported the body to a local veterinary clinic.
  • Later that night, Southland track officials learned of the incident and questioned Rogers along with greyhound trainer J.J. Moore. Moore was the licensed trainer responsible for the kennel that the dog was being sent to.
  • Under questioning, Rogers and Moore indicated that they did not report the dog's death because they did not have the necessary phone numbers, and did not believe the track's policies regarding deceased greyhounds applied to the incident. Rogers also claimed that the hauler was in a parking lot outside the kennel compound when the dead dog was discovered.
  • Rogers then submitted a letter to track officials in which he stated that he had "lied" about the incident and apologized.
For their part in the cover up, Rogers and Moore were both fined $1,000 and suspended for six months. Love was fined $250 and suspended for two weeks.

As sad as this incident is, it does raise an important issue about transparency. Perhaps it is apropos that the greyhound who died in this case remains nameless. This dog had a name, a family, and a story. Now, however, he or she is just another nameless greyhound who died for the racing industry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Humane Advocates are Winning the Debate Over Greyhound Racing

Jake runs on the beach
In the debate over the future of greyhound racing, humane advocates are winning. Just consider these facts:
  • According to statistics from the National Greyhound Association, for the first six months of 2012 the number of dogs registered to race has declined by 14% when compared to a year ago.
  • During the same time period, the number of greyhound litters reported to the National Greyhound Association has declined by 4%.
  • In July 2012, the amount gambled on pari-mutuel wagering at Florida dog tracks was down by $1.6 million when compared to July 2011.
The greyhound racing industry is slowly dying. Greyhound breeders have repeatedly tried to convince themselves that there will be some magic revival of their cruel industry, but that's not happening. This decline also explains why dog race promoters have resorted to desperate personal attacks. At some level, even greyhound breeders know that their industry is vanishing before their eyes.

While these new statistics are good news for greyhounds, we must continue fighting for the dogs. At GREY2K USA, we will work hard until the cruelty of greyhound racing ends everywhere. We are making progress, but there is a lot still left to do.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

State Veterinarian Accuses Arkansas Greyhound Trainer of Animal Neglect

Bobby Munson the greyhound, photo by Rachel Hogue
According to state records GREY2K USA recently obtained from the Arkansas Racing Commission, a greyhound trainer has been suspended after he was accused by a state veterinarian of animal neglect. Although the details of this case are not complete, the facts we do have are concerning.

In April 21, the Southland Greyhound Park Board of Judges held a formal hearing for greyhound trainer Bob Gray. Gray was asked to respond to a complaint that had been filed by Arkansas State Racing Commission veterinarian Lisa Robinson, in which she alleged that Gray "had been negligent in the care of Greyhound 'Bobby Munson.'"

According to a database maintained by the dog racing industry, Bobby Munson is a black greyhound that would now be three years old. He won at least six races, and was a 2011 Southland Festival of Stakes finalist. Another similar database indicates his last race occurred on April 16 and during this race he "pulled up."

The Southland Board of Judges ultimately could not verify Dr. Robinson's accusation of animal neglect. They did, however, suspend trainer Gray for 30 days after finding him "in violation for failure to follow Southland Park's Section 1200-04 on the DNC injured greyhound policy." This appears to be an internal Southland Greyhound Park policy related to injuries.

It is not clear where the greyhound Bobby Munson is now, or what his ultimate fate was. I certainly hope he is sleeping on a couch somewhere.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tucson Dog Track Executive Accused of Deterring Employee from Reporting Abuse

The Empty Concession Area of Tucson Greyhound Park
Regardless of how you feel about greyhound racing, we should all agree that employees have the right to work in a safe environment. A state record we just received from the Arizona Department of Racing, however, suggests that this right may not be recognized at Tucson Greyhound Park.

In July, an assistant greyhound trainer at the track named Michael Yelton was fined $100 and had his license suspended for five days for "acting in a abusive or threatening manner towards another licensee." Specifically, a witness statement describes an incident in which Yelton verbally abused another track worker and threatened her with physical violence. According to the statement, Yelton called her several deeply offensive and derogatory names, screamed at her, and threatened to strike her:
"He flip out and screaming at me to learn how to do my job and I told him not to tell me how to do my job ... Then he got in my face and threaten to hit me with his fist."
The witness further claims that she attempted to file a complaint regarding this incident, but was deterred by track security at the direction of Tucson Greyhound Park Tom Taylor:
"I went to security to get the write up paper when they told me that Tom Taylor told them not to write a report for them to leave Michael Yelton alone."
Even though Yelton was fined and suspended for his part in this incident, we see no evidence that this information was shared with state or federal authorities as a possible labor law violation. We are deeply troubled by the accusation that an employee was deterred from reporting a threat of violence, and have forwarded these documents to the Industrial Commission of Arizona.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Arizona Dog Track Regulator Denies Cover Up, But Facts Speak For Themselves

Bella Kingnarmer was injured at Tucson Greyhound Park in 2009
Two days ago, Arizona Department of Racing Director William Walsh wrote to us and denied that his agency has refused GREY2K USA public information requests for greyhound injury data. In part, his letter stated:
"The Department of Racing has not 'denied' GREY2K USA access to any public records it maintains."
This response is not only disingenuous, it is deeply misleading. The fact is, the Department of Racing is using a sneaky tactic to prevent the public from having access to information about greyhound injuries. GREY2K USA immediately responded to Walsh, and addressed this sneaky tactic.

Below, you will find a full copy of our letter. A digital copy, with endnotes and supporting documentation can be downloaded here. Hopefully, the Department will soon realize that this wrongheaded policy must end, and will provide the public with information about greyhound injuries.
"August 16, 2012
William J. Walsh, Director
Arizona Department of Racing
1110 West Washington St., Suite 260
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Dear Director Walsh,
Thank you for your correspondence dated August 15, 2012.  Please consider this a formal response to your letter.
Without question, the Arizona Department of Racing is willfully violating the Arizona Public Records Law. Specifically, the Department is intentionally not keeping physical possession of records related to greyhound injuries at Tucson Greyhound Park, in a patently obvious attempt to prevent such records from entering the public domain.
Greyhound injury records were produced as public documents in Arizona until approximately November 2009, when the Department opted to begin skirting the public information law. Additionally, they are public documents in other jurisdictions, including West Virginia, Iowa and Texas.
This “hide and seek” tactic to skirt public information laws is not new. In fact, in 1993 an individual named Steve Barham withdrew his application to become the next Director of the Arizona Department of Racing after he admitted using this same tactic in another state. The Arizona Republic Editorial Board addressed this issue forcefully:
“What Arizona did not need was an individual who willfully would seek to come up with creative means to cut off public access absent legal justification.”
Attached, you will find a full copy of the Arizona Republic Editorial.
Additionally, this is not the first time the Department has shown a disregard for public transparency. For example:

On July 15, 2012 Arizona Racing Commissioner Rory Goree publicly stated that he was “mulling some bill ideas” to make public information requests much more difficult.

On September 12, 2011 Arizona Department of Racing Director Lonny Powell forwarded a message about dogs racing in extreme temperatures at Tucson Greyhound Park to various racetrack lobbyists and executives. At the top of his message, in large font, he wrote “Please…no e-mail responses back…….

Without question, the reports that were released prior to November 2009 demonstrate a serious problem. 
Specifically, between January 2007 and November 2009, 923 greyhound injuries were reported at Arizona racetracks. The most common injury was a broken leg, and other reported injuries included fractures, sprains, dislocations, muscle tears and strains, lacerations, a cracked skull, broken backs, heat stroke, puncture wounds and paralysis. Most greyhound injuries reported during this period were serious, and 67 were fatal or resulted in euthanasia. For example:
 ·         On April 11, 2009 a one-year-old brindle greyhound named Oxbow Savage died after he suffered a broken skull during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park.  The official injury report included the statement “Dangerous track – too wet!”
·         On February 23, 2007 a four-year-old white and brindle greyhound named Too Tall Sky was euthanized after he suffered a back injury during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park and had “no feeling” in his tail and rear legs. 
·         On August 12, 2009 a two-year-old brindle greyhound named Boc’s Flamingo was euthanized after suffering a broken leg during a race at Tucson Greyhound Park. According to the official injury report “surgical repair” was recommended but instead the individual responsible for the dog “decided on euthanasia.”
The public deserves to have access to this data, and it is not be in the best interest of the state for it to be withheld. We can only assume that the Department has chosen to block access to greyhound injury data because disclosure would not be in the financial interests of Tucson Greyhound Park.
In closing, I would like to remind you that you are not an employee of Tucson Greyhound Park. As a public official and state regulator, you represent the people of the State of Arizona. By playing hide and seek with Tucson Greyhound Park injury data, you are putting the interests of a private racetrack ahead of good public policy and the integrity of the Arizona Public Records Law.  It is my hope that you will reconsider this harmful policy and once again fully adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the law.
Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., President and General Counsel, GREY2K USA
cc: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Greyhound Advocates Win Victories in Florida Primary

State Representative Mark Pafford visits with GREY2K USA
Greyhound advocates won big victories in the Florida primary last night, with nearly two dozen greyhound friendly candidates advancing to the general election. Overall, 88% of all candidates endorsed by GREY2K USA advanced including 70% (7 out of 10) of contested races. There is still one race too close to call, with greyhound ally Randy Johnson trailing by less than 30 votes.

Meanwhile, greyhound breeders had a tough night. Most notably, candidate Rachel Burgin lost by a big margin to former State Senate President Tom Lee. Two years ago Burgin voted against greyhound decoupling as a member of the State House of Representatives, while Lee is a former GREY2K USA Leadership Award recipient.

Greyhound breeder lobbyist Jack Cory campaigned hard for Burgin, and even mailed an outrageous smear ad to voters in the district attacking Senator Lee's family. This smear was so out of bounds that one of the groups that donated to Jack Cory's Political Action Committee told the Tampa Bay Times that they wanted their money back. The mailing also resulted in a formal complaint to the Florida Elections Commission, which in part claimed that the mailing was paid for by payments to a "vendor that appears to be fictitious."

These primary night victories are wonderful news for greyhound advocates. Greyhound protection is a mainstream issue, and now has more support in the Florida legislature than ever before. With that in mind, I am hopeful that we will see significant legislative progress for the dogs in the years ahead.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Racing Commissioner Publicly Apologizes

GREY2K USA Board President Christine Dorchak & Zoe
Earlier this week, GREY2K USA sent Governor Jan Brewer a letter asking that she remove Arizona Racing Commissioner Rory Goree for inappropriate public statements he has made. In recent months, Goree has made a sexual remark regarding GREY2K USA Board President Christine Dorchak, mocked Christine over a near-fatal accident she suffered two decades ago, stated that he wanted to make it much more difficult for citizen groups to submit public information requests, and also suggested that confidential tips of greyhound cruelty should not be reported to the authorities.

Late last night, Goree publicly apologized for these remarks. His apology was initially posted on Facebook, and is being
reported by the Arizona Republic. In part, his apology reads:
"This has riled up my Russian temper, causing me (on occasion) to go off the rails and express myself in ways that were probably not appropriate or thoughtfully considered ... To those whom I may have offended in the past, I offer my sincere apologies."
I'm glad that Goree now acknowledges his statements were inappropriate. His apology is factually incorrect, however, in claiming that these inappropriate statements were in response to "personal attacks" directed at him. An examination of his full comments, in context, clearly shows that is not the case.

In his apology, Goree also claimed that he now wants to focus on being an effective regulator of the dog racing industry:

"My job is to make sure that racing in Arizona is clean, well-regulated and (most important to me) humane. I plan to focus on that goal from this point forward, so don't be surprised if you notice a new, more civil tone to my comments."
If Goree is sincere in this regard, then I look forward to working with him to make positive changes. As a first step, I propose working directly with Goree and other Racing Commissioners to fully implement the Tucson Dog Protection Act, a local ordinance passed by voters in 2008 to improve humane conditions at Tucson Greyhound Park.

This law prohibits extensive confinement of racing greyhounds, prohibits the use of anabolic steroids, and prohibits the use of raw ‘4-D’ meat from downed and diseased animals.
 So far, the track has refused to adhere to this humane law, and is simply thumbing its nose at the voters.

Even though Goree did not support this humane law when it was proposed, we are hopeful that as a member of the Racing Commission he will acknowledge that duly passed citizen laws should be honored and implemented.

It's hard to know if Goree is sincere in his apology, but actions speak louder than words. He now has an opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to greyhound welfare by setting aside differences and working with us. I hope he accepts my offer of collaboration. It would be wonderful if these reprehensible public comments were instead turned into a positive for the greyhounds. I think that is possible, and the ball is in Rory Goree's court.