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.
This morning ASPCA President Matt Bershadker stood on Capitol Hill beside Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon as he introduced new legislation to end government-funded and -perpetrated cruelty to animals used in agricultural research. The Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors (AWARE) Act, H.R. 746/S. 388, comes in response to the gut-wrenching animal suffering revealed by The New York Times at USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Nebraska—a tax-payer funded facility that performs research to make meat production more profitable.
The AWARE Act would require animal agricultural research at federal facilities to meet the minimal standards for humane handling, care, and treatment in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The bill would prohibit the type of disregard for animal suffering that is clearly ingrained at the USMARC.
To date, the USDA has provided no explanation nor expressed any remorse for its treatment of the thousands of animals that have been starved, crushed, tortured or left to die painful deaths at the hands of its researchers. While it’s disappointing that the agency with primary enforcement authority for our federal animal welfare statutes—including the Animal Welfare Act, which H.R. 746/S. 388 would amend—behaves so atrociously toward the animals in its own care, we are grateful to have champions like House cosponsors Rep. Blumenauer and Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick working to right these wrongs. We are also grateful to Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey for introducing the Senate version of the bill and to Wayne Pacelle of The Humane Society of the U.S. for helping us lead the charge.
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.
People love puppies. But all too often—and in so many cruel ways—these animals are betrayed by the very breeders who raise them. These breeding facilities are called puppy mills, where female breeding dogs are kept in close confinement and forced to bear litter after litter without any break for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often killed. Adult breeding dogs and puppies are typically kept in cages with wire flooring that can injure their paws and legs.
Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, though families who eventually buy these puppies in pet stores don't know their purchase feeds the profit-making machine that keeps puppy mills in business.
That's why we stood proudly with the New York City Council last week as they admirably addressed this issue head-on. By an overwhelming margin, the Council passed groundbreaking legislation—Intro. 55-A, Intro. 136-A and Intro. 146-A—that will put effective and enforceable pressure on commercial breeders to substantially improve the lives of thousands of dogs currently languishing in puppy mills in this country.
Spearheaded by Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Corey Johnson, these measures will prohibit city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic care standards prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, as well as from animal brokers known for selling puppies to pet stores from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources.
It will also require New York City pet shops to disclose information about the origins of the animals they sell, and require that dogs and cats sold at city pet shops are spayed/neutered, microchipped and dogs licensed prior to sale. These measures are critical to reducing pet homelessness, reuniting lost pets with owners and ensuring the safety of pets and the public.
Prior to this year, New York cities and communities did not have the authority to set their own standards, but in January, Governor Cuomo signed milestone legislation—including New York City—to regulate pet dealers for the first time in almost 15 years. Quickly acting on their new authority, the New York City Council created these humane measures.
While these laws won't keep all puppy mill puppies out of New York City pet stores, it's a critical step in the right direction. Taken together they will deeply impact the lives of dogs in puppy mills across the nation, and further New York City's reputation as a leader in animal welfare and safety.
These measures also send a clear message that I hope resonates outside of our city and state boundaries: A civilized society does not tolerate animal cruelty, whether it's fueled by greed, negligence or anything else.
Once that message travels far and wide, we may finally be able to elevate all our animal welfare policies and laws to match values that emphasize animal protection, not exploitation.