Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Australian Dog Racing Industry Talks a Lot, but Doesn't Say Anything

Jeroen & Millie the Greyhound, Photo by Matt Knappick
Last week leaders of the Australian greyhound racing industry released a new "Animal Welfare Strategy," and claimed it was the next step in establishing "animal welfare excellence." We support efforts to reform greyhound racing, and ordinarily would applaud such a move. In this case, however, it turns out that this new "strategy" is nothing more than series of platitudes and bromides, without any real action.

For example, under "end of career alternatives" the first listed goal of this new strategy is:
"To continue to implement specific and innovative changes that will ensure that the industry Greyhound Adoption Program’s (GAP’s) are continuing to operate in the most effective manner possible to meet industry demands."
Say what? This is a great example, to quote songwriter David Byrne, of "talking a lot" but "not saying anything." Of course, by releasing this supposed "Animal Welfare Strategy" last week, the industry hoped to distract attention from the ongoing New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into greyhound racing. GREY2K USA Worldwide Australian Director Jeroen van Kernebeek said as much when he spoke before the inquiry the following day.  In part, Jeroen told lawmakers:
"This list of vagaries has obviously been thrown together at the last minute and we should all view this announcement sceptically. Its timing is clearly political and proves that the dog racing industry does not view greyhound welfare as a serious policy issue."
Jeroen is absolutely right. The greyhound racing industry released their bogus "Animal Welfare Strategy" as a public relations strategy. It gave them an opportunity to send out a press release on the eve of the final inquiry hearing, in which they made statements like:
"Animal welfare is one of our major priorities and this joint strategy builds on the significant progress already made ... over the past decade."
Of course, talk is cheap. It is yet to be seen if the Australian dog racing industry will actually do anything to address animal welfare. We shouldn't bet on it, considering their long track record of scandals and humane crises. In recent weeks information has been released about thousands of unprofitable greyhounds being killed, racing dogs dying after being given to veterinary schools, and other problems.

In the meantime, there is a groundswell of support for ending greyhound racing Down Under. We are proud to play a role in this budding movement, and are optimistic that the best days are ahead of us when it comes to the humane treatment of greyhounds in Australia.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Cat Friends Speak Up for Greyhounds

Kate and I with Sherry Silk at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay
As we fight for greyhound decoupling and injury reporting in Florida, we are running a true grassroots campaign. That's why I was in Tampa and Sarasota last week, meeting with local animal advocates who care about greyhounds and want to see a change.

I'm always energized by these grassroots meetings. They remind me that this is a debate between our people, and the money and muscle of the greyhound industry. The grassroots events from last week were also unique in that they involved notable cat advocacy leaders.

First, I joined Humane Society of the United States State Director Kate MacFall for a meeting at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB). We discussed the upcoming legislative session and greyhound welfare issues with dozens of animal advocates, and spoke afterward with HSTB executive director Sherry Silk. HSTB is helping thousands of local cats through programs such as Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return, and sterilized 5,551 feral cats in 2011 alone. Sherry also serves as President of the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organizations, and is a statewide leader when it comes to animal advocacy in the Sunshine state.

Photo by Big Cat Rescue
The following day Kate and I visited Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit organization and the largest accredited sanctuary dedicated to abandoned big cats in the world. They have over 100 rescued cats, including tigers, lions, mountain lions, bobcats and other species. I was deeply impressed by the work of Big Cat Rescue, and learned a tremendous amount about these special animals from founders Carole and Howard Baskin. In addition to their cat work, Carole and Howard have courageously spoken up for Florida's greyhounds.

That evening, we went to an amazing shelter in Sarasota named Cat Depot. After meeting with a large group of animal advocates, we toured their facility where thousands of cats have been saved and given a new life. In 2013, Cat Depot rescued more than 900 homeless cats and placed 846 cats and kittens into loving homes. They also distributed over 11,600 pounds of dry food and 8,800 cats of wet food to those supporting feral cats, and to community members in need of food for their personal cat friends.

All three of these organizations are moving mountains when it comes to helping animals, and cats in particular. Who would have thought that greyhounds would find so much support from the cat world? GREY2K USA is deeply proud of these alliances, and grateful for the work our partners do.
Blink Needs a Forever Home

Finally, while at Cat Depot I was honored to meet a gorgeous cat friend named Blink. She is curious and playful, and gets along well with other cats. Her favorite toy is a feather wand toy. She is spayed and front paw declawed. She is part of Cat Depot's Chubby Cat program, and is a post-insulin diabetic cat. I have personally had a diabetic cat in my family, and know that Blink is going to make someone very happy. If you live in the Saraosta family, please consider adopting her.