By Jim Smith
BOSTON — A Massachusetts ballot question that would have banned greyhound racing in the state was defeated on election day by a vote of 51 percent to 49.
The closeness of the vote stunned many dog-racing enthusiasts and track owners, who had hoped that a large vote in their favor would have sent anti-racing activists packing. Instead, the race tracks are gearing up for another publicity campaign to convince a concerned public that greyhounds, at least in Massachusetts, are treated reasonably well.
Animal-right advocates, meanwhile, are vowing to continue their campaign to raise the consciousness of the public about what they describe as the horrific mistreatment of greyhounds here and around the country.
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.
Nationally, the greyhound racing industry is in a significant decline. Fourteen tracks have closed since 1990, and dog racing is now legal in only 16 states. In Massachusetts, state revenue from dog racing has dropped nearly 70 percent since 1990, and now represents less than one percent of the state budget.
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Ballot results here were also being viewed with interest in Ireland, the world’s greatest exporter of greyhounds.
Marion Fitzgibbon, president of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the Echo that greyhound racing is becoming a popular recreational outlet at tracks throughout Ireland. "Unfortunately, it seems to be gaining in popularity here, with very little regard for the welfare of the dogs," she said.
According to Fitzgibbon, greyhounds in Ireland are viewed as dangerous animals that are routinely disposed of when they can no longer race. "We overbreed here to an alarming extent, and more than half of our dogs are exported around the world," she said. "Many of the dogs end up in appalling conditions here and in other countries."
Fitzgibbon and greyhound advocates in Ireland are mounting a campaign to pressure the Irish government to do a better job of regulating the industry.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts activist Kitty Granquist, a Concord resident and head of the National Coalition of Greyhound Advocates, said Monday that she was encouraged by the large percentage of state voters who sided with her cause. "We’re making steady progress, but we’ve still got a way to go," she said.
Granquist said that she is heartened by the fact that more and more greyhounds are becoming companions for the elderly in nursing homes around the country. "They’re very gentle dogs, and they could spend a whole day cuddled up with someone," she said.