Thursday, November 29, 2012

Greyhound Trainer Asks That Dog Be Killed Because of His Gender

This morning, I asked the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to open an investigation into an incident involving a greyhound named Pat C Rasputin.

On April 21, the two-year-old dog suffered a broken leg at Dubuque Greyhound Park. What happened next is deeply disturbing. According to state veterinarian Dr. Marianne Kirkendall:
"The trainer requested euthanasia since it was a male dog. This was declined as not medically necessary. The limb was wrapped and the dog was given Torbugesic (0.7cc) IM. Trainer declined other pain meds."
In my request for investigation, I asked the state to ascertain the ultimate fate of Pat C Rasputin, and indicate whether trainer Lee Haynes violated any racing rules or state laws by requesting that a dog be killed because of his gender. Also, I have requested that regulators determine whether this is a common request at Iowa tracks. According to state records, 24 greyhounds were euthanized in the state between January 2011 and July 2012. Of these, 62.5% were male dogs.

Dr. Kirkendall should be applauded for denying the callous request that Pat C Rasputin be killed simply for being a boy. At the same time, this is a sad example of how dog race promoters put personal profit ahead of animal welfare. Commercial greyhound racing goes against the values of our community, and it's time for it to end.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nearly Two Hundred Greyhounds Injured in Iowa, Debate on Decoupling Resumes

Harley raced at Dubuque Greyhound Park
The debate over greyhound decoupling in Iowa has resumed, and it couldn't come at a better time for the dogs.

On Sunday, the Des Moines Register reported the results of a GREY2K USA analysis of state greyhound injury reports. In total, 175 greyhound injuries were reported at Iowa dog tracks between January 2011 and July 2012. Most of these injuries involved broken legs, and other reported injuries included sprains, tears, a fractured skull and a broken neck. During the same time period, 24 greyhounds were euthanized. The Des Moines Register story was picked up the Associated Press, and is being reported all over the country.

In part, these greyhound injuries are a consequence of legislative inaction. As I told the Register, there isn't going to be a miraculous revival of dog racing. The only question now is how many dogs will suffer and die before lawmakers do the right thing.

In each of the last three years, legislation has been introduced that would allow Mystique Casino and Horseshoe Council Bluffs to stop dog racing. Under current law these two casinos must hold live greyhound races to stay open, and must also subsidize greyhound breeders with millions in casino profits. As a result of this bad public policy, greyhound racing is being artificially propped up even though interest in the races continues to decline.

I'm confident that these greyhound decoupling bills will pass when they were given a fair vote in the state legislature. Unfortunately that hasn't happened, and greyhound breeders have given lawmakers hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions while fighting to protect their subsidies.

Thankfully, there is reason to be optimistic about the upcoming session. This morning, Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan told the Daily Nonpareil newspaper that he would support repurposing the dog track at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. Meanwhile, State Representative Mark Brandenberg told the newspaper that he not only supported the proposal, but he believed it will create jobs:
"If we could develop that, there could be more jobs. It might be different kinds of jobs, but it would help the economy."
Finally, it's worth noting that dog race promoters used misleading arguments when they were asked to comment on greyhound injuries in the state. When he was contacted by the Register, lobbyist Jim Quilty claimed that the greyhound injury rate is lower than the injury rate for high school athletes. This absurd comparison was discredited in 2008 by leading expert Dr. Dawn Comstock. Referring to the misuse of one of her studies, Dr. Comstock was blunt in her assessment of this claim:
"It's quite a bit of a misrepresentation."
Dr. Comstock also questioned the basic premise of comparing human athlete injuries to greyhound injuries, given their physiological differences.

Meanwhile, greyhound breeder Beverly Yates told the Register that many of the dogs that suffer injuries, including broken legs, eventually return to racing. This claim is simply false. According to two databases used by gamblers, nearly 80% of the greyhounds that were injured in Iowa between January 2011 and July 2012 never raced again.

Greyhound breeders use false arguments because they can't debate on the facts. They cannot deny that greyhound racing is no longer viable, or that a large number of dogs suffer broken legs and other injuries. Instead, all they can do is make another campaign contribution and hope that their subsidies continue.

Even though it will not come soon enough to help the dogs who have already suffered, I'm confident that Iowa lawmakers will soon make a humane choice and allow greyhound racing to end. If they don't, we will eventually hear about the greyhounds who died in 2013 because of a bad law.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dangerous Bill to Prop up the Cruelty of Greyhound Racing Filed in Texas

Gable Weeman died at Gulf in 2010 after suffering a broken leg
Early next year, state legislatures across the country will consider new laws related to dog racing and greyhound welfare. Most of these measures will be good bills that we will support. There will also be proposals, though, that would harm greyhounds and we will have to defeat.

Today the first dangerous greyhound bill emerged, Texas Senate Joint Resolution 6. This measure was filed by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, and would prop up the cruelty of dog racing. Specifically, it would legalize slot machines at racetracks and require that this new form of gambling be used to subsidize greyhound races. According to the bill:
"The general law must ... provide sufficient revenue to the horse and greyhound breed registries and the horsemen's organization to facilitate a nationally competitive horse and greyhound racing industry in this state."
Also, SJR 6 would allow slot machines at up to eight licensed racetracks. This means that several greyhound racetracks that are currently closed would likely reopen.

Greyhound racing has nearly ended in the Lone Star State. It is now limited to only one track, Gulf Greyhound Park. At Gulf, gambling on dog racing continues to decline while hundreds of greyhounds endure lives of confinement and suffer serious injuries.

A year ago, we released video footage of some of the dogs who have died at Gulf. Between 2008 and August 2011 more than 1,300 greyhound injuries were reported at this track, and 49 dogs died or were euthanized.

We are very close to the end of greyhound racing in Texas, and it would be a tragedy if dog race promoters were bailed out now. This would be a disastrous policy, and would cause the suffering and death of countless greyhounds.

As we move into the legislative season next year, we will keep you updated on Texas SJR 6 and all of the other greyhound related bills. Working together, I know that we can make even more progress for these wonderful dogs.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Power of the People

Volunteers campaign for the Greyhound Protection Act in 2008
As we mark election day in the United States, it's worth reflecting on the power that we all hold as stakeholders in a representative democracy. I was reminded of people power again last week, when London Mayor Boris Johnson issued a ruling that forever ends greyhound racing at iconic Walthamstow Stadium.

After he announced his decision, Mayor Johnson told BBC radio that he tried to accommodate dog racing supporters but in the end concluded that greyhound racing was no longer viable at the site. He also acknowledged the compassionate comments he had received from greyhound advocates all over the world:
"We received thousands of representations from people in the opposite sense who feel that greyhound racing is cruel, now I don't necessarily agree with them, all I'm saying to you is that it was a deeply controversial decision either way."
This is the way a representative democracy is supposed to work. Even though the mayor is not personally opposed to greyhound racing, he listened to the voices of citizens. In fact, nearly 84% of all public comments the mayor received on the Walthamstow housing proposal were requests that greyhound racing not be introduced. According to his official ruling:
"1,990 objections were received in the third category of representations related to animal cruelty if the greyhound stadium were to reopen. Issues raised included the condition of kennels for the raising of greyhounds and the length they are locked in, ill treatment of the dogs whilst being kept for racing, culling of retired dogs and those younger dogs that are not suitable for racing, injuries to dogs while racing, the use of surplus dogs in medical research, the use of retired greyhounds to supply blood to veterinary practices, the sale of dogs organs to the Royal Vetinary College and promotion of gambling."
From across the globe, thousands of greyhound advocates spoke with one clear voice and Mayor Boris Johnson heard us. This is not the first time that our people power has won the day against the dog racing industry's money and muscle. At our core, GREY2K USA is a grassroots organization. All of our key victories, including the 2008 passage of the Greyhound Protection Act ballot question in Massachusetts, have always depended on grassroots support.

Our commitment to grassroots engagement is effective because we live in a society that is based on self government and is designed to change with the times. This change was cited in 1816 by Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence:
"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must also advance to keep pace with the times."
Of course, being part of a representative democracy also carries responsibilities, and in a sense we get the government we deserve. If you live in the United States, please vote today. Meanwhile, at GREY2K USA we will continue harnessing the power of the people.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dog Track Pioneer: Golden Days of Greyhound Racing are Gone Forever

Raynham Park in Massachusetts is overgrown with weeds
It's not often that I agree with one of the pioneers of the commercial greyhound racing industry. That happens to be the case today, however. In the current edition of Greyhound Review magazine, industry Hall of Fame member Paul C. Hartwell acknowledges the collapse of the dog race industry in a column titled "Those old-time Crowds."

Hartwell, who has been involved with the greyhound racing industry since the 1930's, starts his column by pointing out that the crowds are gone, and regular dog track customers have vanished:
"For most of my racing life there was a hard-core of racetrack customers that were just as regular at the track as were the employees or dogmen. They showed up every night just as if they were on a payroll. Some were touts, some were gamblers, and for some it was just the right place to be. For whatever reason they were there, they never missed a night or a race and they knew as much about the overall racing operation as anyone that was working at the track. You just don't see that anymore."
Hartwell then quotes National Greyhound Association Secretary-Treasurer Gary Guccione, who says that because voters ended greyhound racing in Massachusetts, track patrons now have to return to their "assisted living facilities" to "stare at the TV." This is certainly not a vote of confidence in dog racing.

Finally, Hartwell ends his essay by stating that even though he believes commercial greyhound racing will survive in some form, its golden days are over:
"It looks like greyhound racing came along when the country needed it, but now the attitude of the public has changed and its attention is aimed elsewhere. For this reason, even though I believe that greyhound racing, in one form or another, will be around for many years to come, I don't think any amount of  high-powered advertising is going to bring back the golden years many of us were fortunate to have experienced."
I concur with Hartwell that the attitude of the public has changed, and the glory days of greyhound racing are gone forever. I would go a step further, however, and point out that commercial greyhound racing is not only a dying industry, it is a cultural dinosaur.

The dog race industry can no longer effectively compete with other forms of entertainment, and is out of touch with mainstream values on the humane treatment of animals. It is an antiquated relic from a previous generation, and will eventually end.