American anti-greyhound racing activists visiting New Zealand on a fact-finding mission were yesterday asked to leave Auckland Greyhound Racing Club’s track at Manukau when they sought to inspect the premises.
GREY2K USA Worldwide’s president and general counsel, Christine Dorchak, and executive director, Carey Theil, arrived in New Zealand on Saturday night to meet with anti-dog racing activists and view racing conditions in Auckland. However, they were questioned on arrival at the Manukau track on Sunday and shortly afterwards were requested to leave.
Mr Theil says he was questioned on his arrival at the track and, after 15 minutes of discussion, was asked to leave.
“There seemed an air of paranoia, of over-reaction. We’ve done site inspections at dozens of tracks throughout the world.”
Mr Theil says he had hoped he would be given a tour of the track and that officials would explain to him how the industry was structured, where the dogs lived and what they were fed.
“I walked away a little frustrated and disappointed. We were hoping to get a better understanding.”
Ms Dorchak and New Zealand anti-greyhound racing activist, Lynn Charlton, were also asked to leave within a short time of arriving at the track.
Ms Dorchak and Mr Theil have been staying with Ms Charlton while in New Zealand, and have also met with SAFE NZ and with SPCA Auckland’s Bob Kerridge.
Ms Dorchak says she and Mr Theil are keen to show activists in other countries that a small number of people can make huge progress in campaigning to end greyhound racing.
“If the two of us can do it, other people can do it.”
Mr Theil says the meeting with New Zealand anti-greyhound racing activists was very productive.
“There are people clearly throughout the country who care about these dogs and are fighting for change.”
Ms Dorchak says concerns about New Zealand’s greyhound racing industry include the fact that it is completely self-regulating; there are no welfare standards for greyhounds; and it is unknown what happens to greyhounds who are imported to New Zealand each year from Australia to race in events in this country.
“We feel one important measure activists should pursue here is transparency – a tracking system from the moment the dogs enter New Zealand.”
She says tracking leads to a large decline in the number of greyhounds destroyed. It would also provide the public with information about the numbers of dogs injured in races and the types of injuries.
Mr Theil says the fact there is no code of welfare in this country for greyhound racing means New Zealand is out of step with the rest of the greyhound racing industry. He says the community needs more information about how the greyhound racing industry operates in New Zealand.
“It’s clear the way the industry is currently conducted is cruel and inhumane and it needs to end. We will support their efforts to do so.”
The pair fly out this evening for Australia, where they will continue their fact- finding tour. They are scheduled to meet with representatives of Animals Australia; the activists who broke the greyhound racing live baiting scandal in Brisbane; other animal groups; organisations which rehome racing greyhounds; and law-makers.
They will also hold talks with Greyhounds Australasia chief executive officer, Scott Parker.
The final stop on Ms Dorchak and Mr Theil’s trip will be Macau, where they hope that the territory’s chief executive Fernando Chui Sai On will announce that the licence of the Canidrome for greyhound racing will not be renewed. Land is at a premium in Macau and there is pressure for the licence to be terminated later this year to make the race track land available for housing and other purposes instead. Dog tracks in London are at present being repurposed for housing as pressure for housing space intensifies in many countries.
Ms Dorchak says the Canidrome is the only greyhound race track in China and is one of the cruellest in the world. She says between 300 and 400 greyhounds are imported to Macau from Australia each year, and all have short and miserable lives. 400 greyhounds are put to death in Macau every year.
A petition on change.org calling for an end to the killing of dogs for Macau’s greyhound racing industry has already gathered more than 70,000 signatures - https://www.change.org/p/stop-killing-dogs-for-macau-s-greyhound-racing-industry. Ms Dorchak and Mr Theil will hold a press conference in Macau and deliver the petition to Mr Chui.
While in Macau, Ms Dorchak and Mr Theil will also on 23 July hold a meeting with anti-greyhound racing campaigners from other nations – the first time groups from different countries have held talks together. She says the occasion will be history in the making, as there is strong determination to end dog racing.
GREY2K USA Worldwide was set up in 2001 and is the largest greyhound protection organisation in the United States. It works to pass stronger greyhound protection laws and to end the cruelty of the greyhound racing industry both nationally and internationally. The organisation also promotes the rescue and adoption of greyhounds across the globe.
GREY2K USA Worldwide earlier this year released an 80-page report about greyhound racing in the United States, titled High Stakes – Greyhound Racing in the United States. The report can be downloaded here - http://www.grey2kusa.org/pdf/USreportWeb.pdf.
Commercial dog tracks operate in eight countries: the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
Ms Dorchak says anti-racing activists have in recent years been making steady progressing towards shutting down the industry in the United States. When she and Mr Theil began their work in 2001, dog racing was taking place in 15 states. That number has now fallen to seven. 28 dog racing tracks have closed since 2001 and there are now only 21 left in the United States. Dog racing for profit is illegal in 39 states and all dog tracks have closed in an additional four states.
Only in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia is racing still legal and operational.
GREY2K USA Worldwide’s fact sheet describes greyhound racing as cruel and inhumane and says that thousands of animals at racetracks across the United States endure lives of terrible confinement, with many suffering serious injuries.
“They live inside warehouse-style kennels in rows of stacked cages that are barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around. They are confined for long hours each day, with shredded paper or carpet remnants as bedding.”
The fact sheet says that, according to industry statements, greyhounds are kept in their cages for 20 or more hours a day. A few times a month, they are taken to tracks to compete. A few times a day, they are “turned out” in large groups to relieve themselves, accounting for a total cumulative period of three to five hours a day outside their cages.
GREY2K USA Worldwide says the standard minimum size for dog track cages is 32 inches high by 31 inches wide by 42 inches deep, with some cages slightly larger. The cages are produced by commercial companies specialising in racetrack cages.
“According to the American Greyhound Council, greyhounds stand between 23 inches and 30 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 50 and 85 pounds. Using these dimensions provided by the industry, large greyhounds cannot stand fully erect in racetrack cages.”
The fact sheet says that greyhounds routinely suffer serious injuries – and sometimes death - during racing and training. Between January 2008 and May 2015, a total of 12,189 greyhound injuries was documented. The most commonly-reported injury was a broken leg. Other injuries included head traumas, electrocution and broken backs.
Thousands of puppies are bred each year for the industry. According to the National Greyhound Association, there are 300 greyhound breeding facilities and kennels in the United States.
GREY2K USA Worldwide says at least 27 cases of greyhound neglect and cruelty have been documented since 2008. At least eight severe cases of greyhound cruelty or neglect were documented in Florida, including a case at Ebro Greyhound Park in which dozens of greyhounds were starved to death. In Iowa, a trainer was fined and suspended for failing to provide adequate veterinary care for a sick greyhound. In Texas, a trainer was fined after he caused an injured dog “unnecessary suffering.”
The fact sheet also says dogs at tracks across the country are fed a diet based on “4-D meat.”
“This is meat derived from dying, diseased, disabled and dead livestock that has been deemed unfit for human consumption. The United States Department of Agriculture requires that charcoal be added to this meat to discourage human use. According to an industry handbook, 4-D meat is used at commercial dog tracks because “it is the most economically feasible for the Greyhound industry at this time”.”
GREY2K USA Worldwide says greyhounds are often transported in cramped conditions, including suffering cross-country trips in aluminium trailers. In recent years, there have been a number of cases of animals dying while being transported.
“Thousands of greyhounds are still killed every year. Because several states do not keep adequate public records, there are no verifiable statistics on the number of dogs killed annually. In 2009, Gary Guccione, the Executive Director of the National Greyhound Association, estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 greyhounds were killed annually. In 2011, the National Greyhound Association acknowledged that there are “no cumulative annual records” available regarding the ultimate fate of racing greyhounds.”
The fact sheet also records that greyhounds have in recent years repeatedly tested positive for cocaine and other drugs. Female greyhounds are given anabolic steroids to prevent estrus. This can lead to increased aggression, loss of vigour, virilisation and weight gain.
Dogs are raced on both the hottest summer days and the coldest winter days. More information about greyhound racing in the United States and the work of GREY2K USA Worldwide can be found at www.GREY2KUSA.org.
And the cruelty of American greyhound racing is mirrored in other countries. The public in Australia was shocked to learn of “live baiting” being used in the greyhound racing industry in Victoria. This involves training greyhounds by getting them to pursue a live animal dragged around a track as a training device. There are numerous media reports about the cruelty involved in this practice - http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/scope-of-live-baiting-scandal-in-victoria-revealed-in-final-report/story-fni0fit3-1227392624346 and http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/mar/11/entire-greyhound-racing-victoria-board-resigns-in-wake-of-live-baiting-scandal.
In New Zealand, Ms Charlton and other activists have documented the cruelty of our greyhound racing industry. TV 3’s 3D programme has reported repeatedly on the industry - http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/3d/shocking-new-greyhound-revelations-2013111321#axzz3fjjdcsIY.
Preventing cruelty to greyhounds can only be achieved with a global ban on greyhound racing.