On Nov. 4, we have an opportunity to vote yes on Question Three and end the suffering of greyhounds in Massachusetts. Question Three is a humane proposal that will phase out greyhound racing in Massachusetts by 2010.
Dog racing is cruel and inhumane. At the two local tracks, thousands of greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement and are kept in small cages barely large enough to stand up or turn around in for long hours each day. The MSPCA’s adoption center cages are five times the size of the cages in which racing greyhounds live. While dog racing supporters will make claims regarding the level of care the greyhounds receive, the facts prove otherwise. The conditions are well documented in photographs taken by Wonderland Greyhound Park itself in 2006. We also know from recent statements by members of the racing industry that greyhounds are confined in these stacked warehouse-style cages for 20 or more hours per day.
Records from the state racing commission document that more than 800 greyhounds have been seriously injured while racing in Massachusetts since 2002; 80 per cent of these injuries are broken legs — not minor toenail chips the tracks will mention. In fact, the vast majority of the injuries were serious enough to warrant a lengthy recovery period of eight months. Additional injuries racing dogs have suffered from include broken bones, paralysis, seizures, and death from cardiac arrest. This is information that voters did not have access to prior to 2002.
This institutionalized cruelty is part of a dying industry. State figures show that since 2002, the amount gambled at Wonderland Greyhound Park and Raynham Park has decreased 65 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively. Racetrack owners themselves acknowledge their businesses are failing. Raynham Park owner George Carney confirmed the industry’s fate at a state house hearing last December, telling lawmakers that there’s “no money left in the racing.” Fewer and fewer Massachusetts residents want to see dogs run in circles around a track. The bottom line: our economy simply should not be based on cruelty to greyhounds.
One of the major sponsors of this ballot question, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA), has a long history of working for the humane treatment of animals. The MSPCA is the second oldest humane society in the nation, and provides direct care to more than a quarter-million animals annually at our animal care and adoption centers, in our Angell Animal Medical Centers, and through our other community-based programs. Our formation in 1868 led to the passage of the first state anti-cruelty law, and in the generations since we have successfully fought for and worked on hundreds of additional animal protection laws and policies to improve the lives of animals. Why would we support this ballot question if we did not know the dogs were being harmed? We are a proud sponsor of Question Three, as is every major animal shelter in the state, more than 60 veterinarians and many other civic groups.
Visit ProtectDogs.org to view photos and videos of the dogs and the crashes that result in injuries or death. Learn about dogs like Starz Voice, a two-year-old white and red greyhound who died at Raynham Park after breaking several bones while racing. Regrettably, her story is not unique, and Starz Voice is just one of the many dogs who have lost their lives to this industry. It is time for this cruelty to end. Question Three is a moderate proposal with a responsible 14-month phase-out period. Massachusetts can do better for the dogs who have suffered over decades solely for entertainment. So when you are in the voting booth making your final decision, please ask yourself: “Would I treat my dog this way?”
Kara Holmquist is director of advocacy for the MSPCA, and Ron Whitney is director of the MSPCA’s Vineyard animal care and adoption center in Edgartown.
By MIKE CAMILLERI
I have been a trainer in the greyhound racing industry for the past 50 years, working all over the country, including Wonderland Park and Raynham-Taunton in Massachusetts. I’m tired of listening to the campaign of slander spewed by anti-racing groups to ban racing in our state.
Their claims of cruelty and inhumane treatment of greyhounds in Massachusetts are false. Each greyhound has a monetary value, so why would anybody working for a kennel abuse them? We have documented proof that every retired racing greyhound in Massachusetts for the past years has been adopted.
I’m in the business of documentation. Everything we claim is documented and these anti-racing groups do not have documentation to support their distorted claims and outright lies. Greyhounds are the most protected animals in this state. Only dog racing operates under the rules and regulations of the Massachusettts Racing Commission, state police, department of agriculture and local animal control offices. Their representatives can and do come into the kennel compounds unannounced at any time. Why hasn’t there been one documented case of abuse? There hasn’t been any.
Every crate is inspected by the racing commission and local animal control officers. The sizes of crates were approved by the MSPCA when the rules and regulations were re-written. We have documented evidence that the MSPCA accepted the rules about the size of crates.
Owners, trainers and kennel helpers work an average of 40 to 62 hours a week, seven days a week. These anti-greyhound groups say that dogs are in crates 22 hours a day. It’s not true. There are four or five turnouts each day where each dog goes outside for an average of 30 to 45 minutes each turnout. They socialize with the other dogs, get groomed, and their beds are changed. That time out of the crate doesn’t include when they go to the track to race, school or sprint. Every greyhound has to race or be worked every fourth day to keep their muscles toned. How often are pets living with people in condos outside each day? Not nearly as long in most cases — off to work, dinner, and a few minutes outside to go the bathroom. And many of them are crated too.
These people are vilifying the rights of everyone who works in this industry. They don’t want to see or know what’s right. We have to be licensed to work and they’re telling the state that licenses us to abolish racing. How are we licensed if there’s cruel and inhumane treatment of greyhounds going on by us? They say we can be retrained if dog racing is banned. What am I going to be trained to do at my age? I don’t want to do anything else; I chose this profession a long time ago. Who are they to tell me I have to find another job? It’s tough enough out there today without these people costing jobs for more than 1,000 workers.
Greyhounds were born to run and are happiest when they’re racing. There’s a misconception that we force them to run. How can we? Racing greyhounds have to qualify to race at tracks. If they don’t want to race or are too slow, they put up for adoption as pets. Racing greyhounds are athletes, no different than football or baseball players, other than the fact that they’re dogs. They need to train, exercise, and stay in shape to race. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the sport, but the rate of injuries is very, very small compared to a lot of other sports. Many injured greyhounds come back to race. They make great pets after they’ve retired from racing and we make sure 100 per cent are adopted
I think a lot of people who signed the petition to get Question Three on the ballot did so under false pretenses because these groups have brainwashed people into thinking that we’re abusing dogs. Just show us evidence of a single act of cruelty or inhumane greyhounds in this state by anybody associated with a kennel and we’ll back off. We love greyhounds or we wouldn’t be in this business. We’d be the first people to demand changes if any abuses were happening. All we want is for the people of this state to know the truth, not distorted facts and lies made by people who have hidden agendas. Vote no on Question Three.
Mike Camilleri lives in Revere.