By Matt Bershadker, President & CEO of the ASPCA, and Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., President of GREY2K USA Worldwide.
It’s always appalling to see animals abused and betrayed for profit, especially when the activity is legal and defended as a “sport.” That’s the reality of Greyhound racing, but the reasons this detestable industry still exists defy not just our humane values, but common sense as well.
The cruelty and trauma these dogs suffer is undeniable, and is spotlighted this month in the first-ever national report on Greyhound racing, created by GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The culmination of more than 13 years of research, this report reveals systemic and shocking abuse to dogs caught up in a dying, poorly regulated industry. Greyhound racing benefits a tiny group of cruel breeders at the expense of the more than 10,000 Greyhounds that enter the racing industry each year. As our report shows, this antiquated and unpopular activity also costs taxpayers millions of dollars.
Racing Greyhounds are kept for 20 or more hours per day in warehouse-style kennels. To reduce costs, the dogs are fed raw “4-D” meat from diseased animals. Confined in stacked cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around, large Greyhounds can’t even stand fully erect for most of the day.
When let out of their confinement, the dogs’ health and lives are placed in even greater jeopardy. Since 2008, over 80,000 Greyhounds have been registered to race and nearly 12,000 racing-dog injuries have been documented, including more than 3,000 broken legs … plus broken necks, crushed skulls, paralysis, seizures and death by electrocution.
At least 909 racing Greyhounds died between 2008 and 2014, 758 of them from injuries. In Florida alone—which takes advantage of having no law requiring tracks to report Greyhound injury statistics—a racing dog dies, on average, every three days.
Greyhound racing continues in seven states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia—and in each one, Greyhound cruelty and neglect have been verified, including at least 27 troubling cases since 2008. Sixteen Greyhounds tested positive for cocaine during this period. One particularly gruesome situation involved a Florida kennel operator who walked away when the racing season ended, leaving 42 Greyhounds to die of starvation, some with their mouths taped shut.
In March of 2013, a two-year-old Greyhound was left to sit in her cage for four days after breaking her leg in a training race at the Wheeling track in West Virginia. Aspirin and a makeshift wrap were the only “treatment” she was given. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, “Kiowa Dutch Girl” was found, shaking in her cage and unable to stand, and ordered to receive medical care. Both trainers fled the jurisdiction in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
This level of wanton cruelty and disregard is reminiscent of some of the worst atrocities people commit against animals for the sake of profit—including dog fighting. But unlike dog fighting, dog racing is completely legal in these seven states.
You might assume there must be a compelling, if heartless, state or social interest that keeps Greyhound racing active in these states. But there’s none.
The public doesn’t want it. Since 2000, both the number of states with legalized racing and the number of racetracks in operation have been more than cut in half, largely because the public cannot tolerate the cruelty inherent to this activity.
The states don’t really want it. State governments often spend more to regulate the sport than they get back in revenue. In Florida—where more Greyhound races are run than in any other state—the state loses between $1 million and $3 million each year on dog racing, because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
It’s no wonder that racetrack owners—tired of losing money on costly and poorly attended races—also want out of the industry. But in most of these states, live racing mandates require racing licensees to keep the dogs running in circles, even when nobody’s watching. In Florida, for instance, 12 dog tracks lost $42 million on racing between June 2012 and November 2013. During that same time period, every Greyhound track in the state lost money on racing. These tactics are designed only to keep Greyhound racing practitioners and breeders in business, with absolutely no regard for the animals' welfare or the best interest of the public.
With racing dog breeders and trainers putting up a tough fight to protect their own interests, this abhorrent activity continues. But it can end immediately if the governors of these seven states take decisive action against animal cruelty, even when it takes place in a legal operation.
Please sign our petition to urge Governors Bentley, Ducey, Hutchinson, Scott, Branstad, Abbott and Tomblin to follow the humane lead of all other states, and put a long-overdue end to the national shame of Greyhound racing.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
This week, The New York Times published a comprehensive investigation into deplorable animal treatment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), a sprawling complex of laboratories in Nebraska with the overarching mission to help meat producers make more money.
There, according to the Times’ exposé, newborn piglets are accidentally crushed to death by their mothers, who have been scientifically bred to give birth to unnaturally large litters. Weakened and deformed calves are born to cows “retooled” to have twins and triplets when they usually bear only one calf at a time. And lambs born in open fields were left to die excruciating deaths during an experiment to see if their mothers, normally dependent on human help, would nurture their babies despite severe weather and predators.
This barbaric animal “experimentation” is not only cruel, but wildly out of step with modern sensibilities and ethical standards. It’s even more appalling that such activities—conducted with the goal of helping a private-sector industry turn a higher profit—are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.
You’d think we’d have laws protecting animals from such abject abuse. But farm animals—both in agricultural research and in on-farm production—are indefensibly excluded from the Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for other kinds of animal research.
The problem doesn't stop there. This research feeds a larger agricultural system that treats animals like widgets—constantly striving to produce more, bigger, faster—with little regard for their pain. According to the Times, most of the research at USMARC is being done to help beef, pork, and lamb producers make up for an increased consumer interest in alternatives, like poultry. But widespread cruelty and genetic manipulation to speed the process are also rampant in chicken production. Most chickens raised for eating are bred to grow so huge, so fast, that they can barely stand up. Many collapse under their own weight and spend much of their lives lying in their own waste, with open sores and wounds. That’s why the ASPCA is actively involved in improving those conditions.
It doesn't have to be this way. More humane alternatives are available, and consumers are demanding better. If we are to live up to the ideal of a humane society, Congress must close the legal loopholes that allow such abject suffering, consumers must vote with their wallets, and the animal agri-business industry must respond.
What You Can Do Now Please take action: Use the form below to tell Congress to pass the newly introduced AWARE Act, which would require agricultural research at federal facilities to comply with certain standards of the Animal Welfare Act.
In a letter to the editor published today in The Star Ledger, ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker urges New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to take action on a pending pet purchasing bill.
When a family buys a puppy from a New Jersey pet store, they’re doing more than just exchanging money for a pet. Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, so when consumers buy these dogs from pet stores, they are in fact supporting an industry that systematically abuses animals for profit.
In puppy mills across the country, dogs are typically stacked on top of one another in tiny, wire-floored cages that can injure their paws and legs. Female breeding dogs are forced to bear litter after litter without any time for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often callously discarded or killed.
Conditions at puppy mills are reprehensible and intolerable, but many consumers are unaware that these sites are by far the leading source of pet store puppies. If pet stores are legally allowed to use unethical and inhumane breeders and brokers and to keep those sources secret, consumers have no way of making informed decisions when they bring a new pet into their family.
In December, New Jersey lawmakers took a strong step to insert accountability and transparency into the industry by unanimously passing S.1870 to amend New Jersey’s current Pet Purchase Protection Law. This new law would force New Jersey pet stores to disclose the breeders and brokers that supply them, giving consumers a chance to make informed decisions. It would also prohibit pet stores from selling puppies from breeders that fail to comply with even minimal federal and state standards, helping to put pressure on some of the worst industry participants to significantly improve their practices.
This law protects both animals and consumers, and we’re grateful to have worked closely with the bill’s sponsors and to have helped push it through the legislative process.
Now it’s up to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to take the final step by signing this bill. New Jersey residents can help by contacting the governor and telling him that Garden State animals and consumers deserve to be protected, not exploited.
Guest blog by ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker
For nearly 150 years, the ASPCA has called New York City home, and we’re proud to have helped the city and its animal rescue institutions make great strides in recent years. New York City currently has the lowest dog and cat euthanasia rate per capita in the country. Animal cruelty laws are rigorously enforced in record-breaking numbers by the NYPD in partnership with the ASPCA. And, just yesterday, the New York City Council approved groundbreaking legislation that will curb puppy mills by prohibiting city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic standards of care. New York City is a place where we protect animals from suffering, not exploit them for profit.
The positive momentum we’ve created should absolutely extend to New York City carriage horses, which is why we support Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to phase out these rides on New York City streets. Using these animals to pull heavy loads of tourists for long hours through loud and congested city streets is simply unnatural, unnecessary, and an undeniable strain on their quality of life, and we’ll work closely with rescue networks to ensure these horses are humanely retired. The ASPCA was founded in part to help horses, and we’ve devoted tremendous effort and resources over the years to bring a permanent end to both domestic horse slaughter and the export of American horses for slaughter abroad.
Naturally, retiring this industry will have financial repercussions, but the Mayor’s bill reflects a strong intent to offset those consequences with workforce training programs and resources available not only to drivers, but to owners, license holders, and horse stable employees. The proposal will prevent renewals of carriage licenses when they expire in 2016, giving displaced workers time to transition to more contemporary industries. Under this bill, owners will also be prohibited from selling horses to slaughter.
So when posed with a choice between giving these horses a quality of life they deserve, or justifying an antiquated industry on the sole basis of tradition and financial gain, it’s clear what the New York City Council should do, based on the humane values New York City holds.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
Like many, we’ve been watching the situation in Moreauville, Louisiana, where a local “vicious dog” ordinance threatened the lives of innocent pit bulls and Rottweilers—including one serving as a loyal therapy dog for O'Hara Owen and her family. We’re relieved to hear local leaders say they have repealed the unjust law.
The ASPCA has long opposed legislation that targets specific breeds of dogs, because all dogs need to be judged on the merits of their individual behavior, not stereotyped based on misperceptions about their breed. Fortunately, many state legislatures agree. Currently, there are no state-level laws that discriminate against certain dog breeds, though a number of cities and municipalities do have breed-specific laws in place. Eighteen states have taken the extra step to ban breed-specific legislation altogether.
When safety is a community issue, we support laws that focus not on breed but on individual dog behavior, including those prohibiting prolonged chaining and tethering.
But behind this unfair law and its nearly tragic consequences is another story that’s just as important: the story of how a community’s voice—whether it’s a geographical community or one united by common values—can create meaningful change, save lives, and reverse something as seemingly untouchable as established law.
We applaud local decision-makers for listening, and extend our services to help craft new ordinance language that will offer the intended protections to Moreauville while avoiding the tragic pitfalls of breed-specific legislation.
This ordinance—and the fate of Moreauville pets—only got a second look when individual voices online, and later, news media brought it to light. As a result, our culture is a little more humane and a little more civilized today than it was yesterday. That may sound like a tiny difference to some, but to families like the Owens and to those of us dedicated to this cause, it’s life-changing.