Thursday, December 12, 2013

Millionaire Greyhound Breeder Asks for More Subsidies

Millionaire greyhound breeder
Brad Boeckenstedt, Photo by the NGA
Last week, greyhound advocates gained momentum in Iowa when the Dubuque City Council announced it will ask lawmakers to remove a state dog racing mandate. There are currently two operational dog tracks in the state, and both have casino gambling. Under current law, these facilities are required to continue racing greyhounds in order to be operational.

The law also requires that dog races be subsidized with millions of dollars in gambling profits each year; funds that could instead be used for state programs. In Dubuque, these funds would otherwise go to local non-profit organizations.

To defend their subsidies, greyhound breeders turned to kennel owner Brad Boeckenstedt, who told a local reporter:
"Our family is greatly invested in our community and in the greyhound business ... It's kind of sad that they want to get rid of us now that they have slots."
The irony here is incredible. The fact is, Brad Boeckenstedt is a perfect example of the problem. Just since 2009, his kennel has received at least $4.75 million dollars in purse payments. Virtually all of these funds come from subsidy dollars. Also, that total does not include some subsidy payments from 2010 that the state no longer has records for. Last year alone, Boeckenstedt received $1.26 million in purse subsidy payments.

This is what the debate in Iowa has come to: a handful of greyhound breeders receiving millions in subsidies. Their spokesman for this bad public policy is the top recipient of subsidy dollars, a multi-millionaire greyhound breeder. Brad Boeckenstedt claims that he has "invested in our community," but in reality the state of Iowa has repeatedly invested in him, paying him millions for an activity that is no longer viable.

It's time for the gravy train to end. Next Spring, lawmakers should put an end to these subsidy payments for millionaire greyhound breeders.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Zealand Dog Track Official: Animal Welfare Means Digging a Good Death Pit

A New Zealand greyhound death pit, image by Farmwatch
In the December edition of On Track Magazine, Greyhound Racing New Zealand official Greg Kerr gave bizarre advice to trainers on how they should make greyhound death pits.

In part, Kerr wrote that while "dealing with the disposal of your animal can be very unpleasant" it is "necessary."  He went on to remind greyhound trainers of the factors they need to consider when burying dead greyhounds:
"Regardless of the method of disposal you choose, make certain you have all the facts and information first before proceeding. Always be aware of wells, surface water, public areas and property lines. Also consider if seasonal water will be an issue: often different times of year will cause the water table to rise."
Kerr added that trainers must take local wildlife into account in disposing of their dead greyhounds:
"If composting or burying, take steps to ensure wildlife or other animals on your property cannot access the carcass."
Kerr also told greyhound trainers that when burying their dead greyhounds, they should think about what season it is:

"Consider your options well in advance, and make plans for different seasons: for example it may be impossible to bury a carcass during the winter months due to frozen ground and high water tables."
On Track Magazine is the "official information bulletin" of Greyhound Racing New Zealand (GRNZ), and this essay appeared under the header "welfare news." In fact, Kerr is the official "Animal Welfare Manager" for the industry.

This is not the first example of the New Zealand dog racing industry using death pits. Just a few weeks ago, news program 3rd Degree reported on a greyhound death pit that was found on the property of GRNZ Board Member Phil Green. Their reported followed an investigation by the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand and Farmwatch. When he was caught, Green was the chair of the industry's supposed animal welfare committee. He has since resigned his position.

It's clear that for Greyhound Racing New Zealand, animal welfare means little more than being thoughtful when burying your dead greyhounds.  In his essay, Kerr actually claimed that the advice he was giving was a way of showing greyhounds "dignity and respect." He wrote:

"Carcasses should be disposed of immediately, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve."
Rather than focus on digging good death pits, the New Zealand dog racing industry should begin showing greyhounds a little dignity while they are still alive.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fourth Dog Track Worker in West Virginia is Disciplined for Greyhound Abuse

Tucker raced at Mardi Gras dog track in West Virginia
In late October, the West Virginia Racing Commission revoked the license of dog track worker Cory Fisher for greyhound abuse. According to a state record:
"Fisher was observed showing inappropriate behavior to a greyhound by pulling on the collar and pushing the greyhound's head down in a rough manner."
During a state hearing on the incident, Fischer admitted to the incident and stated that he "was having a bad day." The incident occurred at Mardi Gras dog track.

This is the fourth time this year that a West Virginia dog track worker has been suspended or had his license revoked due to greyhound neglect or cruelty. Two individuals were sanctioned after an incident in March in which a greyhound named Kiowa Dutch Girl suffered a broken leg and was denied veterinary care. In April, an assistant greyhound trainer at Wheeling Island dog track was caught on surveillance video hitting two greyhounds.

The West Virginia Racing Commission should be applauded for addressing this issue, and taking action in these cases. It does raise questions, however, about the continued operation of dog racing in West Virginia. These are no longer isolated incidents, but instead represent a pattern of animal cruelty and neglect.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Greyhound Death Pit Exposed in New Zealand

The New Zealand dog racing industry is again under fire, after news program 3rd Degree reported last night that a greyhound death pit was discovered on the property of a notable greyhound trainer. The pit included multiple greyhound bodies that had been burned, and numerous skeletal remains.

The pit was found on the property of Phil Green, a Greyhound Racing New Zealand board member who heads up the industry's supposed welfare committee. As Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand founder Aaron Cross told 3rd Degree, Phil Green is a personification of the industry itself.

In an attempt to defend himself, Green claimed that the dead greyhounds on his property were killed by lethal injection and then burned on site to save money. According to him, the dogs were disposed of in this way because of "economics." He also claimed that he has "respect" for the dogs that were killed and burned on his property:
"I've got nothing but respect for the dogs ... I believe the dogs deserve to die gracefully."
Green also told 3rd Degree that he has become a scapegoat for a practice that is widespread in the racing industry:
"You obtained the footage, and it'll be looked at, and people will put a slant on it, and the general public will perceive it as being horrific."
Of course, this is nothing more than an attempt to rationalize greyhound cruelty. Young healthy dogs do not "deserve to die gracefully." They deserve to live with a family in a loving home. Green's denial is proof that the greyhound racing industry will go to any lengths to defend its inhumane practices. When it comes to commercial dog racing, apparently no one is responsible for its perpetual cycle of suffering and death.

Thankfully, the greyhounds have committed grassroots groups fighting for them, like the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand. GREY2K USA Worldwide helped fund part of this undercover investigation, and we are proud of our role in the effort. We look forward to working with our allies in New Zealand for years to come, and I'm confident that together we can bring about change.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Dog Track Insiders Sound Alarm on Texas Injuries

The final race for Gable Weeman, who died at Gulf in 2010
Earlier this year we released a report that documented greyhound injuries at Gulf Greyhound Park (GGP) in Texas. According to state records, 1,507 greyhound injuries were reported at the track between 2008 and 2011, including 56 fatal injuries.

When our report was released, a track executive bent over backwards in an attempt to rationalize these injuries. She attacked greyhound advocates and falsely claimed that the "vast majority" of reported injuries at Gulf Greyhound Park were "minor."  In reality, a majority (54%) of reported injuries at Gulf were either puncture wounds, lacerations, torn ligaments or broken bones. The most commonly reported injury was a broken leg.

As it turns out, greyhound advocates are not the only ones concerned about injuries at Gulf. In a internet discussion that started last night, a greyhound breeder and owner named Wally Wasik told other industry supporters about a dog that was recently hurt at the Texas track:
"I had another pup break down again at Gulf. The track conditions are terrible there."
Wasik also stated that there is widespread concern in the industry about Gulf's racing surface:
"The Kennels arre complaining about the racing surface. Talked to the racing Secretary. who is no smarter than a light bulb, said they are working on the problem. But they are not doing anything to fix the problem. That is common knowledge." (sic)
An hour later, a well-known racing greyhound owner named Laird Morgan echoed Wasik's concerns. Morgan added that the track is refusing to work with the Texas Greyhound Association, which represents greyhound breeders, to find solutions:
"Everything I heard points to the need to take the surface down to the drainage/irrigation level and have a capable contractor build it back up. Doubt they will suspend racing for the time and money required. The most disappointing element is the unwillingness of GGP management to work with the TGA on a solution."
Wasik then responded by expressing his overall frustration with the track:
"If they CANNOT SECURE a safe racing Surface for the Greyhounds, THEY NEED TO SHUT DOWN."
This elicited empathy from a greyhound kennel owner and trainer named Malcom McAllister, who wrote in part:
U Too Wood collapsed on the track and died at Gulf
"Wally, my heart goes out to you, and the greyhounds that 'have' to race there ... until they have a person in charge that is 'concerned' then it will stay the same."
Wasik then wrote:
"Maybe it's time Racing and Anti-Racing come together to get rid of a track that will not take the SAFETY of greyhounds seriously."
We have forwarded this entire discussion to the Texas Racing Commission, and asked the agency to open an investigation into the track surface at Gulf Greyhound Park. At GREY2K USA Worldwide, our mission is not only to end dog racing, but also to make life better for greyhounds while racing continues. This is an area where we have a common interest with Texas greyhound owners, and we share their concern about injuries at this low-end track.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

To Greyhound Breeders Dogs are Merely "Overstock"

The Fall 2013 National Greyhound Association Auction
Earlier this month the National Greyhound Association (NGA) held a semi-annual dog auction in Abilene, Kansas. These events occur in the Spring and Fall, and are one of the last remaining vestiges of commercial dog racing. At these auctions young greyhounds are sold off to the highest bidder. Older females are also sold, destined to live as breeding dogs for the racing industry.

Greyhound breeders claim that they love their dogs. However, reading through this year's official Fall Auction Program, it seems that the dogs are nothing more than products. For example, the entry for a three-year-old female greyhound named WW's Fly Away indicates that she is being sold as part of an "overstock reduction sale." In total, twenty greyhounds had nearly identical notations. All of these dogs were being sold by greyhound breeder Julia Ward who was just elected as President of the NGA.

The entry for WW's Fly Away also includes this tragic note:
"Last bred to Little Andy, whelped naturally, but all pups died."
One of the greyhounds being auctioned off for breeding was nine years old, and at least seven other dogs were eight years old. The entry for one of these greyhounds, Flying Dawn, states that she has "produced top grade racers in her first two litters." Another entry, for eight-year-old Flying Brookside, states that she "offers the opportunity to own a Kiowa Sweet Trey daughter" and adds that two of her sisters have "been excellent producers."

Similar language is found in the entry for SE's Kelsey C, which indicates that she was being sold "to dissolve a partnership." This is what greyhounds are to the commercial racing industry. They aren't members of the family, but instead are "opportunities" and "producers." Rather than living beings, they are "partnerships" and  "overstock" that needs to be "reduced."

Finally, these sad auction entries also provide information on greyhound injuries. Dog race promoters like to claim that injuries are rare, but this industry data suggests otherwise. Many entries include information about past injuries that dogs suffered, including:
"Injured early."
"Had nagging problem that affected her racing career."
"Retired due to injury."
"She was injured in second start of Puppy Stakes."
"Retired with stopper injury."
"She got hurt her seventh start."
Beneath the public relation facade, this is the true face of the greyhound racing industry. A dwindling number of people who buy and sell eight-year-old greyhounds and view them as nothing more than "producers" and "overstock." This kind of ideology is out of touch with mainstream values, and will soon disappear with the industry it supports.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Global Campaign to Help Greyhounds

On Saturday night I had the honor of announcing GREY2K USA Worldwide, a new international effort to end the cruelty of greyhound racing.

For this special occasion, I was joined by GREY2K USA President Christine Dorchak, our Australian director Jeroen van Kernebeek, and League Against Cruel Sports CEO Joe Duckworth. Surrounded by a room of friends and allies, we reflected on the victories we have already won and the work we have left to do.

In the official announcement, we described our improbable journey which began as a defeated local ballot question committee:
"Twelve years ago, Christine Dorchak and I formed GREY2K USA with an absurd notion, that ordinary citizens could bring about change ... we started with very little. We did not have an endowment, or a powerful backer, or a team of experienced staff members. Instead, we had a tiny office with no windows, a small but committed Board of Directors, and a dream. A dream we had lived through, in which we had given the greyhounds a voice, and stood up to two of the most powerful tracks in the country, before finally losing one of the closest ballot questions in state history."
We then outlined the progress that has been made so far:
"A dozen years later, we have ended greyhound racing in New England. The number of active dog tracks in the U.S. has been cut from 48 to 21, with the remaining tracks on the verge of collapse. Despite this success, our work is not over. We must continue to fight until dogs no longer live in cages, no longer suffer injuries, and are no longer discarded, for an industry built on greed and denial."
Finally we made the announcement about our transition:
"We are here tonight, because we are also called to help greyhounds in other parts of the world ... GREY2K USA Worldwide will seek to give greyhounds a global voice, because the greyhounds in London and Sydney are just as important as the greyhounds in Miami and Des Moines ... this is a global industry of cruelty, and it deserves a global response."
All over the world, there are grassroots groups and non-profit organizations who are striving to give greyhounds a voice. By working together, we can send a message that regardless of where it exists, the cruelty of greyhound racing will not be tolerated.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Candidates from the Left and Right Support Greyhound Protection Laws

Since the very beginning, our fight to pass greyhound protection laws has been a bipartisan effort. We are supported by lawmakers on both the right and left, and proud of this record. To me, it is a ray of hope in an age of unprecedented political gridlock.

That is why we recently supported Florida legislative candidate Mike Hill, a strong conservative and founder of the Northwest Florida Tea Party. It's also why we have endorsed Carl Sciortino, an unabashed liberal state lawmaker who is running for Congress.

Carl and Mike may not agree on many things, but they both believe that greyhounds deserve to be protected. That is why we have stood by both of them, along with dozens of other candidates, over the years. In fact we have supported more than 100 candidates over the past decade, and our endorsed candidates have won nearly 84% of the time.

There is no doubt that dog race promoters will go to virtually any lengths to protect their cruel industry. Many of these individuals are being heavily subsidized, and have a vested interest in the continuation of commercial greyhound racing. This is a fight between our people and their money and muscle, and we can only be successful by working with lawmakers who are compassionate and courageous.

If you live in the 5th congressional district in Massachusetts, please vote for Carl Sciortino on Tuesday. Wherever you live, consider making a donation to Carl's campaign today so he can continue his work as a public servant. As a community, we have a responsibility to stand with the lawmakers who have given greyhounds a voice.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Good Greyhound News From Both Sides of the World

Pilot lives with her adopted family in California
All across the world, the fight to end greyhound racing is moving forward.

According to new data that has been released by the Arizona Department of Racing, gambling at Tucson Greyhound Park amounted to just $12.6 million in the last Fiscal Year. That represents a catastrophic drop of 21.7% in just a single year, and is the lowest level of business for the track since at least 2001.

Tucson is a dead end track with a long history of humane problems. Based on this new data, I am more optimistic than ever before that it could soon close. It also provides some perspective on the recent attempt by Arizona Department of Racing Director Bill Walsh to thwart the will of the voters, and overturn a prohibition on anabolic steroids in the dog race industry. Rather than regulate this dying activity, Walsh has apparently decided to perpetuate industry standard practices that are cruel and inhumane.

Meanwhile, more good news for greyhounds was announced seven thousand miles away at the Macau Canidrome. According to new government statistics, the number of dogs imported to the track from Australia is down by 56% compared to a year ago. Because the Canidrome has no adoption program, this drop in imports likely means that the number of greyhounds killed has also been greatly reduced.

While greyhound breeders continue their campaign of innuendo and personal attack, the racing industry is collapsing around them. This progress should encourage everyone in the humane community, and motivate us to work even harder for the dogs.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Artists Speak up for Greyhounds

At its heart, GREY2K USA is truly a grassroots movement. Our supporters come from many different backgrounds and have diverse political views. Despite our differences we share one common value: we believe greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane and should end.

In that spirit we are proud to be supported this month by Etsy for Animals (EFA). According to its website, EFA is a team of independent artists, craftspeople, vintage sellers and craft suppliers on who are dedicated to supporting animal protection causes. These compassionate creators use their talents to help animals, and chose GREY2K USA as their Charity of the Month for September. This nomination will help us fulfill our ongoing mission to fight for greyhounds and bring about change.

That is probably why dog track promoters became so angry when they learned of EFA's choice to support GREY2K USA. The American Greyhound Council, the public relations arm of the racing industry, even sent out a national press statement calling EFA a "clueless group." Meanwhile, greyhound race supporters bombarded EFA with false information about GREY2K USA and tried to intimidate the artists with threats of a boycott. This response shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, the dog racing industry has a long history of bullying anyone who gives greyhounds a voice. In recent years they have personally attacked lawmakers, openly fantasized about the death of greyhound advocates, and threatened adoption groups who speak out.

In EFA, however, greyhound breeders met their match. Instead of backing down, the group responded to these threats by publishing a powerful essay about the cruelty of dog racing. In part, EFA wrote:
"It is not enough simply to continue to rescue greyhound after greyhound that has been purpose bred to race. The cycle of using these dogs as disposable commodities needs to end, and just like all other breeds of dog, greyhound(s) deserve to be born and live their whole lives as family pets."
This courageous stand should be an example for all of us. Etsy for Animals was faced with a choice: to continue speaking up for greyhounds, or be silenced by promoters of a cruel industry. They chose to do right by the dogs, and for that we should all be grateful.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dog Race Gambling Drops for Twenty Years in a Row

According to new data that has been released by the Association of Racing Commissioners International, gambling on dog races has now declined for twenty consecutive years.

The most recent wagering numbers that have been released are for calendar year 2011. In that year $648 million was bet on greyhound races, on both live racing and simulcasting. This figure represents the total amount bet, not profits, and the vast majority of those dollars were returned to gamblers as winnings.

In just the past decade, betting on dog races has dropped by a staggering 67%. During the same period state revenue from greyhound racing declined by more than 80%, and dog races now provide only $14 million in tax revenue nationwide. Taking into account the millions that states spend every year regulating greyhound tracks, it is very likely that taxpayers are actually losing money on the activity.

As I wrote previously, the last year that dog race gambling increased was 1991. Since then, greyhound gambling has declined by 81.5%.

Whether greyhound breeders like it or not, this cruel industry is on its way out. The only question left is how many dogs will suffer and die before greyhound racing ends completely.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greyhounds Win Victories in West Virginia

Taylor now lives in Florida with an adopted family.
Greyhound advocates won two major victories yesterday in West Virginia. First, the state Racing Commission unanimously voted to approve a new animal cruelty policy. Thanks to this vote, it will now be the Commission's official policy to report instances of animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, abuse or abandonment to the appropriate local law enforcement authorities.

The Commission also voted, again unanimously, to refer a case involving two greyhound trainers to Ohio County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Smith. The trainers had been previously disciplined by the Commission after they failed to provide an injured greyhound with veterinary care.

Before voting on the animal cruelty policy, the Commission acknowledged that they had received many supportive comments from humane minded citizens, including GREY2K USA supporters. We are grateful to everyone who helped give the greyhounds a voice.

The three members of the West Virginia Racing Commission should also be applauded for their compassionate votes. Their actions send a clear message that greyhound cruelty will not be tolerated, and abusers will be held accountable. We are also thankful for the work of Commission Executive Director Jon Amores, who helped draft the policy. Please send a polite message to the Commission, thanking them for adopting this new animal cruelty policy.

Finally, it should be noted that greyhound breeders fought to weaken the animal cruelty policy until the bitter end. According to the Charleston Daily Mail:
"The state Racing Commission unanimously approved the agency's first animal cruelty policy Tuesday. In doing so, it declined to accept several changes pushed for by the West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association."
The Daily Mail also interviewed West Virginia Greyhound Owners and Breeders Association President Sam Burdette, who offered a strange commentary on the Commission proposal:
"I think that cruelty is a very relative, subjective subject ... they should have adopted something that lets people understand that dogs need discipline, that they don't need to be treated cruel in fits of rage or temper or anger."
According to the Daily Mail Burdette then described a hypothetical greyhound trainer and dog fight, using terms like "fangs ripping" and "going for the throat," and claimed that to break up the fight:
"He may have to pick up a dog and throw it."
Dog racing industry spokesman Sam Burdette
This is not the first time Burdette has expressed bizarre views on greyhound cruelty. Just last month, he told Pittsburgh television news station WTAE that he could "understand" why a greyhound trainer had hit several greyhounds. He went on to say that although the trainer had acted "a little bit rough ... that's the way you handle dogs and the only way you can handle dogs."

This rationalization of greyhound cruelty goes against the views most West Virginia citizens have about animal cruelty. Like Burdette the greyhound industry is out of touch, an anachronism from a bygone era when people held very different views on animal welfare.

We should not, however, allow this callous industry perspective to overshadow the important victory that occurred yesterday in West Virginia. Thanks to the State Racing Commission, greyhounds now have an added layer of protection from individuals who would do them harm.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Greyhound Breeders Fight WV Anti-Cruelty Policy

Greyhound Industry Spokesman Sam Burdette
On Tuesday, the West Virginia Racing Commission is expected to vote on a new animal cruelty policy. This new policy aims to hold greyhound abusers accountable under the state anti-cruelty law, and states:
"It is the policy of the West Virginia Racing Commission to report instances of animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, abuse or abandonment to the appropriate local law enforcement authorities for possible criminal prosecution pursuant to West Virginia Code § 61-8-19."
One would think that greyhound breeders would enthusiastically support this proposal. After all, they claim to have a zero tolerance policy for greyhound cruelty. Actions, however, speak louder than words. Rather than support this proposal, greyhound breeders from all over the country are flooding the West Virginia Racing Commission with comments against it. In a shocking display of self interest, greyhound breeders are arguing that the industry should be self-policed, and incidents of cruelty should not be referred to law enforcement.

This wrongheaded lobbying effort was started, in part, by dog race supporter Jan Vasquez. On Facebook Vasquez urged greyhound breeders from across the country to contact the Commission and oppose the policy:
"Flood the Commission with support from racing people for policing their own."
Similarly, after GREY2K USA President and General Counsel Christine Dorchak testified in support of the policy, National Greyhound Association member Robert Gross posted a similar message:
"I commented that I was glad they brushed her off and sent her running back to Massachusetts."
This dismissal of the Commission's proposed animal cruelty policy was then followed by a heinous personal attack on Dorchak by former greyhound trainer Don Conaster:
"Too bad she wasn't at the Boston Marathon!!"
His hateful statement was posted only a few months after the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon, which killed three people and injured hundreds of others. Dorchak is an avid runner and has competed in the Boston Marathon on seven occasions.

Sadly, this kind of neanderthal thinking about animal cruelty is common in the greyhound industry. Just last month, West Virginia Greyhound Breeders and Owners Association President Sam Burdette defended the actions of a trainer who lost his license due to greyhound abuse. When he was shown video footage of greyhound trainer Christopher Bever hitting dogs, Burdette said:
Greyhound trainer Christopher Bever hitting dogs
"He acted quick, and a little bit rough I thought, but I understand why he reacted so quick. You're showing the dog what you want the dog to do and that's the way you handle dogs and the only way you can handle dogs."
This rationalization of greyhound cruelty is far outside the mainstream. By contrast, the Charleston Daily Mail Editorial Board spoke up for common sense when they wrote on July 12:
"Teachers, doctors and others are required by law to report suspected child abuse. The people who oversee horse and dog racing in the state should report any animal cruelty to local prosecutors."
We can't let greyhound breeders get away with this. If you haven't already, please contact the West Virginia Racing Commission now and voice your support for the proposed animal cruelty policy. If enough people speak up for the dogs, we can win two victories. We can ensure the passage of a new greyhound protection. Meanwhile, greyhound breeders have already shown the world how they really view the dogs they claim to care for.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Two-Faced Report Highlights Greyhound Suffering and Death in New Zealand

A greyhound at Manukau Stadium in Auckland, November 2012 
In February the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand presented more than 1,500 signatures to the government, and called  for an independent review of greyhound racing. Although this call for transparency has not yet led to government action, it did result in a very unusual response from dog race promoters.

Last week, the New Zealand Greyhound Racing Association released a 56-page report in which they review themselves, while at the same time calling it an "independent" inquiry. Their findings are, to put it mildly, a bit bizarre.

The report begins by announcing on the very first page that the authors found no evidence of  humane problems:
"The review team investigations found little evidence of issues relating to the care of greyhounds during their racing careers."
It goes on to add:
"Interviews with participants in the Greyhound Racing industry highlighted that many owners and trainers are committed to the welfare and safety of their dogs and care passionately about them throughout their lives."
Of course, it is no surprise that the dog racing industry would approve of the way it does business. What is surprising, however, is the rest of the report. Once you get past this blanket dismissal, the remainder of the review represents the strongest case yet for why dog racing should end. In fact, documentation of a serious humane issue is cited in the very next paragraph:
"Our analyses suggest that approximately 35% of greyhounds whelped never make it to the track. Due to a lack of effective reporting the review team was unable to establish what happens to these greyhounds."
In the paragraph after that, the report indicates that roughly seven hundred greyhounds were killed between 2009 and 2012, and that the true number may be much higher:
"30% of the 2,305 greyhounds leaving racing between 2009 and 2012 are recorded as deceased by NZGRA with the potential for this number to be significantly higher due to the lack of effective tracking of retired greyhounds."
The next thirty pages are essentially a long laundry list of one humane problem after another:
"A further issue facing the greyhound racing industry is the incidence of injuries occurring during racing."
"Although there is veterinary attendance and at every race meeting, the practice of recording and monitoring injuries in NZ has been inadequate."
"In the process of the review a culture of non-enforcement and non-compliance of welfare rules was evident."
"There is a need for more responsibility to be taken by greyhound owners for their dogs. There are currently no NZGRA rules that specifically impart this responsibility."
"There are no controls or regulations in place over controlling the numbers or quality of greyhounds bred."
"During our review we asked owners and trainers if they have ever had a healthy greyhound euthanized. The response was that 77% have had a healthy greyhound euthanized."
This extensive recitation of animal welfare concerns is briefly interrupted on page 31, when the report strangely claims again that there are no problems:
"Whilst there will always be exceptions in any diverse community, it is our conclusion that, on the whole, racing greyhounds during their career are well looked after and cared for."
However, this denial is contradicted by the very next sentence, which indicates that "there are no formal minimum standards of welfare in place."
In its closing pages, the report continues to document a myriad of serious animal welfare concerns:
"It is noticeable that 40% of trainers interviewed did not know that NZGRA has an Animal Welfare Policy."
"There is currently no detailed analysis of injury reporting undertaken and there are no analyses in place to establish issues with particular tracks or parts of tracks, particular trainers or particular greyhounds."
"The NZGRA Board formed an Animal Welfare Committee in 2012 ... However, it is noted that there are no independent members on this committee with a detailed knowledge of animal welfare matters."
"The NZGRA Board has not been as pro-active as it should have been with regard to welfare issues."
"There is currently no designated Welfare Officer in place at NZGRA and it is noted that welfare activities undertaken by NZGRA are performed by several management and staff members on top of their standard workloads."
Finally, the review ends by stating that there is a "clear need" for "change in the greyhound racing industry in terms of rules and regulations, education and awareness, and in attitudes towards welfare."

I have to wonder whether such a two-faced report could only come from the greyhound racing industry. To summarize this bizarre review, there are no problems, except there are lots of problems, but there really are no problems, and finally there is a "clear need" to fix the problems that the industry does not have.

Lawmakers, journalists, and members of the public should read this report thoroughly and draw their own conclusions. Do they really want to support an industry that is responsible for so much greyhound suffering and death?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

State Vet Saves the Life of Injured Greyhound

A photo of Kiowa Dutch Girl taken by Dr. Lori Bohenko
A few weeks ago I wrote about Kiowa Dutch Girl, a two-year-old red fawn greyhound who was denied veterinary care after suffering a broken leg at Wheeling Island dog track in West Virginia. Since then, we have received additional state records about Dutch Girl. These documents raise new questions, and also highlight the role of a state veterinarian in saving the greyhound's life.

According to an official state Record of Incident, West Virginia Racing Commission veterinarian Dr. Lori Bohenko visited the Cardinal Kennel on March 8 to check on Dutch Girl. The day before, state regulators had directed the kennel's owner to immediately transport the dog to a veterinary clinic so she could receive treatment. By that point, Dutch Girl had already suffered for at least three days with an untreated broken leg.

According to Dr. Bohenko, when she arrived on March 8 the dog's life was in jeopardy:
"James Grace greeted me and when I asked him 'what he knew' he responded by telling me that the dog was at K.E.Y. Animal Hospital and it looked like she would was going to be euthanized. I instructed him to call the clinic immediately and inform them not to euthanize 'Kiowa Dutch Girl.' As Jim was on the phone, I entered the kennel to look for 'Girl' and found that her crate was empty."
Dr. Bohenko also asked Grace why he had not contacted her when Dutch Girl was first injured:
"I then asked him why he didn't contact me and ask for help in stabilizing the dog. He had no answer."
Dr. Bohenko then contacted the veterinary clinic where Dutch Girl had been sent, and learned that the dog had broken one of her legs in three places. She asked the clinic when Dutch Girl had been admitted, and learned that Cardinal Kennel owner Bob Mackey had not immediately transported the dog to a veterinary as state regulators had instructed, but instead waited another day.  Because of this delay, Dr. Bohenko indicates that kennel owner Mackey violated state racing rules:
"Since Mr. Mackey had been informed by State Presiding Judge to transport 'Kiowa Dutch Girl' to a veterinary hospital immediately on Thursday, March 7, 2013 he is in violation of West Virginia Rules of Greyhound Racing as outlined below."
Despite this violation outlined by Dr. Bohenko, we have found absolutely no evidence that any disciplinary action was taken against Mackey.  Further, we have received no indication that Grace has been referred to local law enforcement officials for possible prosecution under the anti-cruelty law.

This sad case raises many important questions about how dog racing is regulated in West Virginia. As we move forward and address these issues, one thing is certain: Dr. Lori Bohenko saved the life of Kiowa Dutch Girl. For that, greyhound advocates across the country should be thankful.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Report: Florida Tracks Lost $35 Million on Dog Racing

Shiloh lives with an adopted family in Connecticut
Yesterday, a gambling impact study was released by the Florida legislature as part of an ongoing look at new possible laws. The study was conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group, and will be followed by the release of additional information in October.

In part, the study examined the economic viability of greyhound racing in Florida. Although it is common knowledge that dog racing is a dying industry, these new findings give the clearest picture yet of how dire the situation has become for greyhound race promoters.

The report first addresses the decline of greyhound racing by pointing out that between 1990 and 2012, the total amount gambled at Florida dog tracks declined by 67%. Similarly, between 1985 and 2012, state revenue from greyhound racing dropped by a staggering 99%.

The study also indicates that virtually all of Florida's dog tracks are losing money on greyhound racing:

"It is clear that pari-mutuel operations at greyhound tracks are loss leaders as the tracks sustained a combined operating loss from wagering on greyhounds of $35 million. Only three tracks made a profit."
Finally, the report quotes two racetrack executives who state that greyhound racing is no longer economically viable. Michael Glenn, general manager of Palm Beach Kennel Club told Spectrum that they would shut down their dog track if they could, and added:
"It is a dying sport ... Decoupling will help us in the short run as we would run fewer races which, in turn, will lower our operating costs. Our simulcast revenue will also increase, but there just are not enough folks out there to come to the track and wager on these races. There is not any interest.”
I couldn't have said it better myself. Florida's greyhound tracks have already become profitable poker rooms that happen to have dogs running around in circles while no on watches. The only question left is how many dogs must suffer before lawmakers change this flawed policy.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Greyhounds Win Victories, but the Best is Yet to Come

Rescued greyhound Flak living the good life in Texas.
Across the country state legislatures are adjourning, ending what has been the best session for greyhounds in at least three years. Several states passed important greyhound protection laws, while others rejected attempts to prop up the cruelty of dog racing.
  • Proposals to revive greyhound racing were rejected in Texas and Kansas, while a bill to encourage the legalization of dog racing in Hawaii was defeated.
  • Lawmakers defeated a bill that would have required the Texas Racing Commission, a regulatory agency, to promote greyhound racing.
Each of these victories is important. Taken together, they reflect a growing consensus that greyhound cruelty is a serious issue that deserves legislative attention. They also suggest that the dog racing industry, which was once a legislative force to be reckoned with, has lost much of its influence.

GREY2K USA was actively involved in every one of these efforts. We joined other animal protection groups, grassroots volunteers, state regulators, and compassionate lawmakers to make sure that the greyhounds were given a voice. In fact, this legislative session is a textbook case of how we approach our work as a non-profit greyhound protection organization.

First, we extensively research greyhound racing until we know the industry better than it knows itself. Second, we collaborate with other humane organizations and grassroots volunteers. Finally, the coalitions we form engage in the public arena and call for positive changes to help greyhounds.

This recipe for success works, and our victories this year bode well for future greyhound protection campaigns. As Frank Sinatra once sang, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Greyhound Trainer Who Denied Treatment to Injured Dog Should be Charged With Animal Cruelty

Earlier this month, the Charleston Daily Mail reported that assistant greyhound trainer James Grace had his state license revoked after a greyhound named Kiowa Dutch Girl suffered a broken leg and was denied veterinary care. The newspaper's story was based in part on information from GREY2K USA.

We are grateful that the Daily Mail shed light on this case, and also that the West Virginia Racing Commission took action against Grace and another individual. However, this should not be the end of the story. After examining the full case file, it's clear that Grace should also be charged under the state law against cruelty to animals.

In a sworn statement to state regulators, Grace admitted that he made the decision to not provide Dutch Girl with veterinary care. Incredibly, he tried to rationalize his poor choice by claiming that he was doing the best thing for Dutch Girl, and said that he has seen many other injured greyhounds be denied treatment:
"I know the dog owner, Kay Smith who owns a lot of dogs, and Bob Mackey the kennel owner, or the GPA wouldn't pay for the surgery ... I've been working with greyhounds for 35 years and I've seen many breaks over the years where dogs were not taken to the vet and they healed naturally and given away as pets."
Meanwhile, Dutch Girl suffered for at least three days before state officials intervened. According to a sworn statement from a witness:
"The whole rear (right) leg was swollen, she couldn't even get out of the cage. I had to lift her up and carry her out to go to the bathroom, and when her leg touched the floor she cried, and she was constantly panting as if she was exhausted."
West Virginia law states that it is illegal to intentionally withhold "medical treatment, necessary to sustain normal health and fitness or to end the suffering of any animal." In the coming weeks, we will encourage the proper authorities to investigate this case and take further action. All individuals who willfully neglect greyhounds must be held accountable in a court of law.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What Will Greyhound Race Promoters Say Next?

For years, greyhound breeders have personally attacked GREY2K USA and our supporters. These attacks are an intentional strategy designed to protect the cruelty of greyhound racing. One of the top supporters of the dog race industry, Rory Goree, admitted this last year when he wrote:
"Keep pressing grey2k - force them into defense mode - do not allow them to play offense. Make them spend time and resources defending themselves instead of attacking the industry."
Thankfully, this cynical strategy is having absolutely no impact. While greyhound breeders spend all of their time attacking us, dog racing continues to decline. Gambling on greyhound races has now dropped for nineteen consecutive years.

That is why, most of the time, we simply ignore this nonsense. Dog race promoters can attack us all they want, while we stay focused on the task at hand. I also suspect that greyhound breeders believe they can somehow intimidate us with these caveman tactics. But instead, these personal attacks only inspire us to work even harder for the dogs.

Once in awhile, though, it's worth taking a moment to diffuse some of the most egregious lies that dog race promoters spread about GREY2K USA and our work.  For example, in recent days greyhound breeders have been circulating a phony chart which claims that GREY2K USA's two founders receive as much as 42% of all expenditures in compensation.

There is, however, one problem with this claim. It is completely false.

To arrive at these phony figures, greyhound breeders magically invented hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenditures that don't exist. Specifically, they nearly doubled salaries for every year over a six-year period by including statements that were filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, Lobbyist Division. Because GREY2K USA fights for greyhound protection laws, we are required in some states to register as lobbyists. Some of these states also require that we report part of our salaries. These are not additional expenditures, they are the same expenditures that we publicly report every year. To arrive at their phony figures greyhound breeders pretended as if these were additional expenditures, which is simply a lie.

But their deception doesn't stop there. After creating these phony expenditure figures, they began to circulate them on the internet with sensational messages like:
"WOW! They are the ultimate greyhound profiteers!!!"
Of course it's deeply ironic that attacks like this, based on made-up phony numbers, would come from people who actually do profit from the suffering of greyhounds.

Here are the facts.
  • GREY2K USA leadership earns a salary that is less than half the median salary for small non-profit Chief Executive Officers.
  • In 2011 our opponents, the National Greyhound Association, spent $346,854 on salaries on benefits. That is more than double what GREY2K USA spent during the same period.
The bottom line is that we are an efficient, effective non-profit organization that is winning the fight over dog racing despite being heavily outspent.

These dog race promoters can make up all the phony numbers they want, and attack us until the greyhounds come home. It will have no effect on our campaigns, and will not save their cruel industry. These personal attacks should be seen for exactly what they are: the last gasps of a dying industry that doesn't realize its fate is already sealed.