Tuesday, September 10, 2013


My greyhound bud Hawk has asked me to return to Scissions series on  the world of greyhound racing and help do what I can to explain why it needs to stop.  So I turn to West Virginia where all is not well, not well at all.

The greyhound industry is just one small component of Capital.  No big deal in the whole global capital scheme of things.  What is interesting is that in West Virginia, as local papers there have pointed out, when coal companies, steel mills, grocery stores, auto shops, and the like fall on hard times, they can't just ask the state of West Virginia for subsidies (well, I'm not so sure about coal companies, but let's pretend on that one).  Businesses in the capitalist world, after all, are supposed to make it without help from the State.  Well, in West Virginia, believe it or not, the Greyhound racing industry, and the horse racing industry for that matter, seem to be exempt from that basic law of Capital.  Those two get huge state subsidies.

The Charleston Daily Mail reports:

Since 2008, the state has provided more than $41 million to West Virginia greyhound breeders through the Greyhound Breeding Development Fund, according to a report released today by Massachusetts-based nonprofit Grey2K USA.

"The state is investing in an industry that has passed," said Christine Dorchak, Grey2K president. "And we want to point out that this is not only a misuse of taxpayer money, it's also causing great harm to greyhounds."

Without that money the race track/casino owners claim they would have to close and many would lose their jobs.

Again from the Daily Mail, 

Other states that have ended greyhound racing have also allocated money to people in the racing industry to help them transition to other jobs, Thiel said.

"But to us, our economy shouldn't be built on cruelty to dogs,"Thiel said. "We don't understand the argument that you should continue doing something that causes hundreds of dogs to die and thousands of dogs to endure lives of confinement."

A recent study (see link below)  found that  almost 4,800 injuries were reported in West Virginia from the beginning of 2008 to June of this year, the report states. More than 1,400 greyhounds suffered "career ending" injuries during that period. There is overlap in the data: a dog could suffer multiple injuries at one time or throughout the year.

Oh yeah, during that same time span 289 greyhounds died or were euthanized at West Virginia's two dog tracks.

"We believe this is cruel and inhumane, but the industry certainly doesn't," said Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2k USA, a nonprofit dedicated to ending dog racing. "This is not because they're cruel people, it's just what has always been done in the industry."

There is more.

In West Virginia regulations require that the crates that greyhounds spend twenty-two hours each and every day be a minimum of 44 by 32 by 34 inches in size.  In those cages many greyhounds cannot even stand up.

Last week a report released by GREY2K USA exposed the horrible situation within the greyhound racing industry in West Virginia.  I would ask you to view the entire report which can be found at   http://grey2kusa.org/pdf/WV2013_web.pdf

The post below is from ThinkProgress.

How Organizers Are Bringing About the Death of 

Greyhound Racing


Credit: Action Shots Online
Credit: Action Shots Online
The sights of the greyhound track can be horrifying: cages too tight for dogs to stand, abuse at the hands of trainers, gruesome injury and prompt euthanasia. A new report [PDF], released on September 4th by GREY2K USA and the ASPCA, looks at greyhound racing in West Virginia and finds a dying industry that’s propping itself up by cutting corners on animal care. Across the country, it seems like public opinion has turned against greyhound racing–the number of tracks in the United States has fallen by half over the past ten years.

The emotional case to ban greyhound racing is easy to make. People love dogs, and racing dogs face short and painful lives so casinos can maximize their profit. West Virginia has only two active tracks, but from 2008 to the present, 4,796 greyhound injuries were reported, resulting in 289 deaths. If the numbers don’t make the case, then the stories do. One dog spent over two months in the kennel with a broken leg without receiving veterinary treatment. Another was grabbed by the neck and thrown screaming into a truck by a trainer with a record of mistreatment. A director at the Wheeling Island Racetrack described one kennel: “I began choking so badly that even my eyes were watering… a strong odor of urine affected me.”

Emotions alone don’t change public policy, however, especially not when significant sums of money are involved. Without much fanfare, the legislative shift against greyhound racing has become one of the most decisive progressive victories of our time. In the past twenty years, eleven states have passed laws prohibiting dog racing.

How did the anti-racing movement become so successful so quickly? Like any successful campaign, they had a strong but nimble leadership who understood how to activate passive supporters and create strategic alliances.

The 2008 campaign to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts operated in the shadow of a failed referendum eight years earlier. The 2000 campaign lacked the infrastructure to compete on a statewide level; the measure only appeared on the ballot because unconnected volunteers across the state collected signatures. By the next campaign, activists had enlisted almost one hundred local coordinators and won the endorsement of many more community leaders. The movement gained a voice, and a thorough research effort provided a meaningful, compelling message. Massachusetts voters responded by giving the greyhounds a victory by almost 12%.

Advocates of greyhound racing use mostly economic arguments, threatening job losses if the industry is forced to close. Rhode Island kept dog racing in 2009 because of the need to maintain tax revenue, and advertisements from Massachusetts tracks told the stories of their workers. To combat this, anti-racing activists have focused on the subsidies that state governments spend on greyhounds. They’ve formed alliances with casino owners forced to keep failing tracks open. When I spoke to Ann Church, the ASPCA’s vice president for state affairs, she was just as prepared to make the economic case as the animals rights case for ending the sport. These arguments resonate across the political spectrum, and Republicans have led the fight to ban racing in Arizona andWest Virginia.

Through all this, greyhound advocacy has been on the fringes of the progressive movement. I doubt that many progressives actively support greyhound racing, but the campaigners’ success rarely gets the attention it deserves. Church admits that they face entrenched opposition in West Virginia, admitting to me that “once the stream of money starts flowing, it’s very hard to turn off.” The dogs have canny organizers and battle-tested strategies on their side, however, and I doubt it will be long before we finally see an end to America’s cruelest sport.

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