Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Let the greyhounds go home

Robert and Jennifer with Cortland the greyhound
Robert and Jennifer adopted Cortland the greyhound
By Christine Dorchak, President and General Counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide

Recently, we asked you to share your greyhound’s story. As with our annual calendar contest, we received entries describing lucky hounds who had been adopted from anti-racing groups, pro-racing groups and groups that claim no position on dog racing.  

This is something we must all celebrate!

In fact, greyhound adoption should never be politicized. The only two questions that should be raised in placing an unwanted puppy or a finished racer are 1) How soon can this dog be transitioned out of the racetrack and 2) Where is the closest, bona fide, adoption group located? 

Unfortunately, having sensed its coming dissolution for nearly twenty years, the commercial dog racing industry has begun holding greyhounds hostage and purposely limiting access to select adoption groups. In an attempt to blunt criticism, such groups may be required by contract not to speak critically about racing. Nor can they tell about the condition of the injured or sick greyhounds that they receive. Industry bullying is so effective that groups even refuse donations and avoid inclusion on any referral pages deemed to be against racing.

Sonia Stratemann of Elite Greyhound Adoptions of South Florida learned the hard way that speaking out rouses complaints not only from kennel operators but also from fellow adopters:

“In the past, I only posted photos of dogs that looked good. If one came in that was especially thin or injured, I usually just posted a head shot. For years, I took in sick dogs that other groups would not and I always stayed quiet. But recently, I posted about one dog’s condition on Facebook, and when another dog from the same kennel was no longer wanted, he was left at a vet’s office to be killed. Out of spite, the kennel worker had refused adoption! The only reason greyhound Holly is still alive is because my friend begged for her life. Ironically, when she dropped Holly off, my friend told me that she hoped I had finally “learned my lesson” and to keep quiet! She hates racing too, but stays neutral to keep them happy. Here’s a photo of Holly, seconds after arriving.”

Holly the greyhound

This kind of psychological warfare must stop. As one adoption advocate in the Pacific Northwest put it, “The racing industry has succeeded in coercing many rescue groups into changing their public position on racing from 'against' to 'neutral.' These groups can’t even use the word 'rescue.' IMO, we should be allowed to help regardless of our feelings about dog racing – pro or con – ESPECIALLY if anyone is expected to believe the racing industry is pro-greyhound.” 

Another defense mechanism used to prolong the cruelty of dog racing is the panic-inducing talking point that thousands of greyhounds will die should a track or tracks close. It is true that the number of dogs available for release increases in the wake of a track’s closure, but that increase is temporary. The immediate problem is real, but it’s one that is expected and can be prepared for in advance. The benefits of a track closing are permanent and far-reaching. This is because the cycle of over breeding and killing stops. For good. This is particularly important in Florida, which has an abundance of dogs at breeding farms and racetracks throughout the state. On November 6, when voters decide whether dog racing should be phased out, the historic Miami track will already have stopped dog racing, three other tracks will have ended their final season, and the remaining facilities will have twenty-six months to wind down and release their dogs to waiting adoption groups both in and out-of-state.

It is important to understand that the recent claims by Florida kennel operators that dogs “will be killed” is not a passive statement. This is all about control and anyone who utters these words is literally threatening to kill his or her own dogs. Think about that. Just as greyhound adoption groups are bullied, kennel operators are now also trying to bully the general public into voting against helping dogs.

Empty threats like these must be considered for the scare tactic that they are. We have heard the same cynicism in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Arizona and every other state that has rightfully voted to end commercial dog racing. When Tucson Greyhound Park closed, for example, we worked directly with the track owners to fund adoption. In our home state of Massachusetts, there was a record year for adoption following voter approval of the phase-out of dog racing.

Historically speaking, when a dog track closes, countless volunteers are mobilized to find homes for any and all displaced dogs. Drivers from hundreds of miles away converge on the track and pick up dogs to be taken to adoption groups and foster homes. For example, when Plainfield Greyhound Park in Connecticut closed in 2005 volunteers from as far away as the Midwest and Canada sent rescuers. The closure of Multnomah Greyhound Park in Oregon in 2004 and Geneva Lakes Greyhound Park in Wisconsin in 2006 sparked a similar response. While some dogs were sent on to race elsewhere, many others were made available for adoption. 

Later, with the closure of Mile High Park in Colorado (Winter 2008) and The Woodlands in Kansas (Fall 2008), all the dogs were safely moved out. Greyhound advocates, including board members of GREY2K USA, joined hands with track adoption groups to help the dogs. In December 2009, the 200 remaining dogs at Raynham Park were re-homed, and a similar number had been transferred out of Wonderland, also of Massachusetts, when that track held its last season in September of that year.

It’s no secret that greyhounds often pay with their lives while competing. They break their necks, suffer paralysis and some are even electrocuted. In Florida, state records show that an innocent greyhound dies every three days. This cannot and should not go on. 

Years ago, as I first thought about this issue, I consulted with one of GREY2K USA’s founders, Dr. Jill Hopfenbeck. She once served as the president of a local greyhound adoption group and had treated over 1,000 rescued racers by that time. She listened to me expressing at length my concern about the industry’s threat to kill dogs should our 2008 Massachusetts ballot question pass. She paused and then looked me straight in the eyes and said with all the certainty of her many years of saving greyhounds: “Christine, the best thing that can happen to a greyhound is for racing to end. The injuries stop, the cages open and greyhounds get to become just dogs again. Don’t ever forget that.” 

Whether one agrees with Jill or thinks dog racing is the best invention of 1919, the truth is that we all love our greyhounds. Now it’s time to show it.

We applaud independent networks like that the Greyhound Adoption Action Alliance for saving dogs now and for preparing to help even more greyhounds as tracks wind down operations in Florida. When Amendment 13 passes and as other tracks also close around the country, let’s work together to promote adoption and put the dogs first.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Biggest Fight to End Greyhound Racing Worldwide

Twelve of the remaining 18 American dog tracks may soon close.
By Christine Dorchak, President and General Counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide

November 6, 2018 may well be the biggest moment ever in the worldwide fight to save greyhounds. On that day, the citizens of Florida will go to the ballot box and have the power to end the cruelty of dog racing in the Sunshine State once and for all. You can help, too! Please sign our petition for Florida greyhounds now.

It’s no secret that greyhounds used in racing often pay with their lives. They break their necks, suffer paralysis and some are even electrocuted. A greyhound named TNT Quiet Riot “fractured her spine” and died at the Sanford Orlando track on July 13, 2017. The very next day Rem’s Carmex also broke her back at another track in Pensacola. PorPorPitifullMe was one of several dogs who fell into the live rail and was electrocuted. On average a racing dog dies every three days in Florida! 

These poor dogs deserved better. They were just 1 and 2 years old. In their deaths, we see the cost of dog racing in its most heartless terms. 

Since May 2013, nearly 500 young, Florida racing dogs have lost their lives. Many suffered catastrophic injuries and died on the spot. The others could have been saved! But instead of receiving medical care for their broken legs or sprains, these gentle hounds were “given the needle.” Their bodies were placed in plastic bags and tossed away, just like trash. Industry reports call this “euthanasia” but we call it cruelty.

Recent news about the doping of greyhounds with cocaine is only the latest example of an industry that sacrifices animal welfare for profit. In the first four months of 2017, there were eighteen cocaine positives at Florida’s Orange Park Kennel Club. In January, cocaine was found in five greyhounds at Derby Lane, another Florida track.
Racing greyhound Mega Caliente falls at Orange Park in Jacksonville, Florida.
But Florida is not alone in its cruel race-fixing schemes. Other states and countries are reporting drug-positive dogs at levels never seen before in a wildly callous attempt to make some of the fastest mammals on earth run even faster.
Life in a cage
When not at the track, racing greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement. They are kept inside warehouse-style kennels inside stacked cages that are barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around -- for twenty or more hours a day! There are no toys for them and no play.
The minimum size for dog track cages is 32 inches high by 31 inches wide by 42 inches deep, with some slightly larger. According to the American Greyhound Council, greyhounds stand between 23 inches and 30 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between fifty and eighty-five pounds. Using these dimensions provided by the industry, this means that large greyhounds cannot stand fully erect in their cages.
Caged greyhounds at Daytona Kennel Club in Florida.
Since there are no required turn-out times, the only extended period that a racing greyhound is outside of his cage is afforded when he is trucked over to the track to perform several times a month. Otherwise, “home” is marked by the four sides of his cage.
Greyhound racing breeds misery

A mother and her puppies at an American greyhound breeding farm.
Another essential problem with dog racing is that thousands of dogs are bred every year in an effort to find younger, faster dogs. The older ones are then displaced, and their very lives put in immediate jeopardy. Will they be rescued or will they be destroyed? The lucky ones who do reach adoption will then displace other needy animals (cats, dogs, rabbits, others) also seeking homes. In this significant way, the racing industry aggravates a homeless animal population which is already overwhelming and immensely sad. We believe that best answer is to get to the root of the problem and end dog racing as quickly as possible.
A dying industry
Even as this cruelty continues, attendance is shrinking by the year. The Association of Racing Commissioners International reports a 70% decline in wagering on dog racing since 2001, the year GREY2K USA was founded. Where there were nearly fifty dog tracks in fifteen states at that time, today there remain a total of eighteen facilities operating in just six states. Similarly, state revenue from greyhound racing continues to drop catastrophically. Between 2001 and 2014, state dog race revenue declined by more than 82% nationwide. In Florida, the country’s biggest dog racing state, regulatory costs have now exceeded revenues by as much as $3.3 million yet dog tracks continue to receive tax breaks and other incentives. States like West Virginia continue to subsidize live racing with tens of millions of dollars per year. This is money that would be better spent on schools, law enforcement, infrastructure and other important community needs.

Our work
Greyhound advocates rally for the dogs.
In recent years, GREY2K USA has phased-out dog racing in many states and successfully prevented its introduction to countries such as South Africa, Jamaica and the Philippines. The organization’s most rewarding campaign involved a voter referendum in which four million people were asked to shut down the two tracks of our home state. In November 2008, Massachusetts citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of the greyhounds, starting a chain of events that quickly led to the prohibition of dog racing in our sister states of New Hampshire and Rhode Island and more recently, Colorado and Arizona.
Volunteers protest against cocaine-positive dogs found at Orange Park, Florida.
All told, we have helped close two-thirds of all US tracks, and we are now looking to apply our strategy to help end dog racing worldwide. Please sign our petition to the leaders of the eight dog racing countries today.
The key to our efforts is a reliance on bona fide, official documentation only. Where previous efforts to end dog racing often amounted to a “he-said she-said” debate, today we let the greyhounds speak for themselves through their own track records and photographs. 
You can help the greyhounds
Lulu of Florida.
It’s time for a change, and we would like your help in making that change. Check out our campaign gear and please join us in our fight to end dog racing.
My greyhound Gina is truly one of the lucky ones. She gives life to this struggle and reminds me that every dog deserves to be loved and protected. To learn more about dog racing, and to work with us to save greyhounds, please go to Please sign our petitions, find us on Facebook and Twitter, and join the team that is working to give greyhounds the second chance they deserve.