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@ Odds

It's cruel and inhumane

By Carter Luke
October 19, 2008
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ON NOV. 4, we have a historic opportunity to end the suffering of thousands of greyhounds by voting yes for the dogs on Question 3.

This humane proposal will phase out greyhound racing in Massachusetts by 2010.

Simply put, dog racing is cruel and inhumane. At local tracks, thousands of greyhounds endure lives of terrible confinement and are kept in cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around in. Hundreds of dogs are injured while racing, and greyhounds have also died from a deadly virus that infected their kennels.

Dog track supporters have made claims regarding the care of greyhounds, but the facts tell a different story. For example, we know that greyhounds endure lives of confinement in warehouse-style kennels because of photographs taken by Wonderland Greyhound Park itself in 2006. (These photographs are available at www.ProtectDogs.org). Because the dimensions of these kennels are determined in regulation, we know that these stacked metal cages are one-fifth the size of the runs used at our adoption centers for similarly sized dogs. We know from recent statements by members of the racing industry that greyhounds are confined in these small cages for 20 or more hours per day.

It is also indisputable that dogs suffer and die at local tracks. For example, a 2-year-old white and red greyhound named Starz Voice died at Raynham Park on a clear summer day in June 2007 after breaking bones while racing. Sadly, her story is not unique, and Starz Voice is just one of the many dogs who have lost their lives. According to state records, more than 800 dogs have been injured while racing in our state since 2002. These injuries include broken bones, paralysis, and seizures. The majority of the injuries were serious enough to warrant an eight-month recovery.

Dog track supporters claim their practices are humane. But at the MSPCA, we know a thing or two about the humane treatment of animals. We are the second-oldest humane society in the nation, and provide direct care to more than a quarter-million animals annually at our Animal Care and Adoption Centers, in our Angell Animal Medical Centers, and through our other community-based programs. Our formation in 1868 led to the passage of the first state anti-cruelty law, and in the generations since we have successfully fought for and worked on hundreds of other animal-protection laws and policies to improve the lives of animals. We are a proud sponsor of Question 3.

Finally, it is a fact that this cruelty is propping up a dying industry. Since 2002, the total amount gambled at local dog tracks has plummeted, and racetrack owners themselves acknowledge their businesses are failing. Raynham Park owner George Carney gave a blunt assessment of his prospects at a State House hearing in December, telling lawmakers that "[W]e're going to keep on running . . . but I'm telling you there's no money left in the racing."

Question 3 is not only about dogs, it is about who we are. Dogs play an important part in our lives and deserve to be protected. For generations, greyhounds like Starz Voice have suffered and died at racetracks in our state. As a community, we can do better. It is time for this cruelty to end.

Carter Luke is president of the MSPCA-Angell.

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