BY MARISSA DIRKS
Massachusetts is one of 16 states that still allows dog racing. There are two greyhound racing tracks in Massachusetts, not far at all from the law school: Wonderland Greyhound Park is in Revere, MA and Raynham Park is in Taunton. Each one of these tacks requires at least 1,000 dogs to be operational, and the life of a racing greyhound isn’t what the owners of the “parks” would have you believe.Greyhounds bred for racing are kept in cages so tiny they cannot stand up or turn around. They are forced to live inside these wire cages for more than 20 hours a day. Current Massachusetts law mandates that the cages be 32 x 34 x 42 – this is more than 5 times smaller than the cages in most shelters, including the MSPCA in Jamaica Plain. There is not enough room for a 70 pound dog to even stretch. Dog racing tracks are businesses – they do whatever they can to turn a profit. It is well documented that racing greyhounds in Massachusetts are fed the worst-grade raw meat available. It is known in animal circles as grade 4-D for the 4 D’s: dying, diseased, disabled and dead livestock. Of course, many dogs consuming this “food” get bacteria and suffer from health issues but the cost/benefit analysis still comes out in favor of losing a few dogs in order to save money, so the tracks continue to buy the worst meat they can find.
In 2002, over 700 dogs were seriously injured on the tracks in Taunton and Revere. It’s easy to overlook statistics, but remember that each dog is an individual with his or her own story. Each dog that could be someone’s pet and live inside a warm house instead suffers extreme weather conditions and is made to work so hard he or she can’t possibly sustain the lifestyle. Some of the injuries in 2002 included broken necks, crushed skulls, and sudden heart attacks that caused the dogs to drop dead on the racetrack. Of course, it is rare for an animal with a broken bone or other malaise to be treated – it is much more cost effective to simply kill him. This practice quickly turns into a systematic disposal when you consider that a thousand dogs are living together in cramped quarters without medical attention, participating in such a dangerous activity. Diseases are spread from dog to dog and delicate greyhound bones are routinely snapped in half. Most of the dogs injured and subsequently euthanized in 2002 were only 1-2 years old.
Wonderland and Raynham Dog Parks force greyhounds to race in extreme weather conditions – the hottest days of summer and the most freezing days of winter. When the race is over for the day, most of the dogs jump back into their tiny prisons, either confused about which is worse (the cage now looks better than the track) or beaten into following orders. A few years back, racetrack employees were caught injecting the dogs with unknown, under-the-counter performance enhancing drugs to force them to run even faster. In actuality, the substance killed the dogs. More than one Massachusetts greyhound also tested positive for cocaine. When asked about this, one of the workers quipped that he didn’t see the point in “keeping track” of all the dogs that were euthanized at the park.
Harvard Law School’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund tabled in the Hark last month to collect signatures for the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act. The grassroots campaign to phase-out dog racing in this state by 2010 needs 150,000 signatures just to get the issue on the ballot. Signatures must be from Massachusetts residents and the collection ends after Thanksgiving. If you are a Massachusetts resident and have not added your voice to the chorus, please call 617-666-3526. A few years ago, Massachusetts residents succeeded in getting this issue on the ballot, but it was very narrowly defeated. The racing industry spent unlimited funds airing insincere ads which depicted priests and small kids enjoying a “day at the dog park.” One employee even claimed that watching the races helps children with their math and reading skills! Taunton dog park owner George Carney and Revere dog park owner Charles Sarkin have been making campaign contributions for over 40 years to the state legislature to protect their business interests in the dog tracks. Please join SALDF and help defeat this special interest.
Retired racers, as they are commonly called, have never seen carpet. They don’t understand windows or stairs. They have no idea what to do with a dog biscuit or squeaky ball. The condition in which they arrive to their new adopted homes is not good. There are thousands of people who have opened their hearts to a retired racing greyhound in this state. But the need for that would become obsolete if we succeed in banning dog racing altogether. Please visit www.protectdogs.org or www.grey2kusa.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Also, join SALDF we celebrate the holidays with a vegan Thanksgiving meal this Sunday afternoon!
Marissa Dirks, 2L, is president of the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund.