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.