On Wednesday, the Oregon Senate voted unanimously to ban dog racing. Just like Connecticut, the last greyhound race occurred there more than a decade ago. But retiring Senate President Peter Courtney never wants to see Multnomah Greyhound Park open again.
In speaking for the passage of his final, legacy bill, he made clear that dog racing belongs in the past. “If there is ever an issue that is not Democratic, not Republican, not urban, and not rural, it’s animals,” he said. “I do not know how you could do this to an animal that you are using to make money. I do not know how you could treat an animal like that.”
By all accounts, dog racing was a failed experiment in Connecticut. Tracks first opened in 1976, decades after greyhound gambling had first been legalized in other states and just before the industry began its downward spiral. Since 2001, 44 tracks have closed nationwide and two more facilities in two other states are in the process of shutting down now. Though live racing ended in the state in 2005, under current law, owning and operating dog racing tracks is permitted and legal in Connecticut.
By contrast, betting on dogs is prohibited in 41 states including all the other New England states. The Nutmeg State remains one of only nine states in the country where greyhound racing is still on the books. West Virginia, with its two tracks, stands alone as the only state to embrace this Depression-era activity. Because the industry is quickly dissolving, Connecticut is viewed as fertile ground and provides an open door for the reopening of its dog tracks, where they once existed and are still legal. The threat of a resurgence is real and something that old-time racing breeders are counting on.
Throughout the racing industry, greyhounds are subject to standard practices that are cruel and inhumane such as extreme confinement, drugging, lack of veterinary care, and diets based on raw “4-D” diseased meat.
According to state records, a West Virginia greyhound dies every 10 days and since 2008, nearly 10,000 racing injuries have been reported. The most common injury is a broken leg but at least one dog was recently killed because of a broken toe nail that took him off the roster.
Other frequent injuries include broken necks, paralysis, seizures and death by electrocution. Dog racing is cruel and inhumane and causes real suffering. Like dog fighting, it should no longer be accepted or tolerated. That’s why the people of Florida recently went to the ballot and voted by a margin of 69% to change their constitution to close the state’s 12 dog tracks for good. The Sunshine State was the first to legalize the activity in 1931, but times have changed and the idea of watching dogs run around in circles, while subjecting themselves to perilous risk, is no longer considered a “sport.”
It should be noted that thousands of dogs are destroyed each year when they are no longer profitable. The National Greyhound Association does not keep records of greyhounds once they stop performing so these dogs simply disappear from record. Here in Connecticut, when Plainfield Greyhound Park abruptly announced its closure, both local and national media reported that the nearly 1,000 dogs there faced a similar fate.
Plainfield was described as a last stop for older and injury-prone dogs, dogs that had little chance of winning elsewhere. The negative publicity was so intense that the New York Times published at least three stories on the dilemma and national television commentators also expressed concerns for the dogs. As a result, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal stepped in to require the track to account for each dog and for an orderly process of release to waiting adopters.
A recent investigation revealed evidence of live lure training on four greyhound breeding farms in four states. Also known as “jacking” or “blooding,” this despicable and merciless training technique is a staple of the industry and involves the use of small animals, commonly rabbits, to excite and enhance a chase instinct in young greyhounds. Typically, screaming bunnies are dangled before the dogs, dragged in front of them on ropes, or simply set loose to be attacked. These fragile animals often suffer cruel and miserable deaths.
Thankfully, current legislation has been filed to address these issues. Lawmakers now have the opportunity to protect dogs by passing HB 5174, An Act Prohibiting Greyhound Racing. This humane measure will ensure that dog racing and its attendant cruelty never find a home in Connecticut again. It is time to bring the state into the 21st-century mainstream by rejecting an old-fashioned and cruel form of gambling.
My rescued greyhound, Gina, is betting on it.