Category: Archive

Ireland watching as Mass. decides fate of dog racing

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — A question on the Massachusetts ballot next Tuesday, Nov. 7, asks voters to decide if greyhound racing should be banned in the state. If voters approve the measure, Massachusetts would become the first state in the nation to ban greyhound racing by ballot referendum. Such a vote could have implications for Ireland, the world’s largest exporter of greyhounds.

Since 1993, six states — Maine, Vermont, Virginia, Idaho, Washington and Nevada — have banned greyhound racing through the legislative process, and it is legal in only 16 states. A ban would shut down the two tracks in Massachusetts, Wonderland in Revere and the Raynham-Taunton Park.

Backers of Question 3 say that abuse and killing of greyhounds is an inherent part of the dog racing industry and that no amount of regulation can prevent it.

"Dog racing is cruel and inhumane," said David Vaughn, director of the GREY2K petition drive, in a recent press release. "Twenty thousand dogs die every year in the industry because they are not fast enough to win."

And in its press release, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said that it supports the ballot question "because of our concerns regarding the overbreeding and euthanasia of greyhounds . . . and the suffering of greyhounds as a result of intensively confined housing and injuries they may sustain during training, transport and racing."

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Activists say that more than 8,000 greyhound puppies are killed each year when they show no aptitude for racing and that two-thirds of all greyhounds, which have a life span of about 13 years, end up dead before their fifth birthday.

Opponents of the measure say that a ban would destroy a 65-year-old industry, leaving hundreds unemployed. They say that no violations of animal welfare regulations have been documented in the state and that activists are unfairly linking the state’s tracks to horror stories about greyhound abuse in other parts of the country.

Louise Coleman of Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, an adoption shelter that has placed 7,000 greyhounds in homes since 1983, told the Echo last week that dog racing "is a dying industry in the U.S." As president of the American-European Greyhound Alliance, Coleman fears, however, that her ancestral homeland of Ireland, where the government-supported racing industry breeds approximately 20,000 greyhounds each year and is the world’s greatest exporter of greyhounds, will now begin to expand its export markets to Southeast Asia, where greyhound adoption is virtually non-existent and where dogs are routinely eaten.

Until recently, about 1,000 Irish greyhounds were transported annually to the U.S. for racing. Those numbers will continue to diminish if next Tuesday’s ballot initiative passes and prompts activists in other states to promote similar measures.

Most tracks in Spain have recently closed after disturbing publicity about malnourished, Irish-bred dogs racing with multiple leg injuries, gaping wounds and infected eyes.

Marion Fitzgibbon, president of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, shares Coleman’s concerns and hopes that the Massachusetts ballot question passes.

"Greyhounds are actually treated much better in America than in Ireland," she told the Echo last week. "Over here, they’re still seen as vicious animals that should be disposed of once their racing days are over. We’re making some progress in changing that perception, and we’re keeping the pressure on the Irish government to do a better job of regulating the industry. But there’s too much over-breeding of greyhounds in this country. Who’s going to take care of all these dogs?"

Coleman agrees that over-breeding in Ireland and elsewhere is a major problem that must be addressed. "Greyhounds are shuffled around from one track to another without any accountability," she said. "The racing industry has gotten a free ride for too long. There’s only so much that we can do for all these greyhounds."

Coleman said that people interested in knowing more about the American-European Greyhound Alliance can contact the website at ameurogreyhoundalliance.org. or call (508) 435-5969.

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