Friday, April 17, 2015

When Greyhound Protection is . . . Not

By Dick Ciampa

There are currently two pieces of legislation before the Florida legislature. One, introduced by Sen. Sobel called the Vicky Q. Gaetz Greyhound Protection Act, calls for racing greyhound injury reporting. The other, Smith Radar Greyhound Protection Bill, SB 262, HB 187, also calls for injury reporting, and in addition, requires a wide range of protective measures including more stringent BACKGROUND CHECKS for those working with the dogs, and a number of track safety measures aimed at preventing injuries.

Most people, if asked which legislation they would support, would say the choice is obvious, and would favor the more comprehensive bill. Why wouldn’t they? It will reduce the number of injuries with measures such as upgrading track surface maintenance procedures, INSTALLING a guard covering the live rail, installing a breakaway lure arm, as well as ensuring timely and detailed reporting when an injury occurs. Choosing the more comprehensive bill is simple common sense.

Those same people might therefore be more than a little surprised to find out that Grey2K, the self-proclaimed “largest greyhound protection group in the country”, is supporting the Gaetz bill.

When asked about the Smith Radar bill, Grey2K pays lip service to its content, and has even produced a note sent to Carey Thiel by Representative Radar, thanking him for his support. However, nowhere on the Grey2K website, on their Facebook page, or anywhere in the press that we have been able to find, does Grey2K communicate the benefits of the Smith Radar bill, or encourage their readership to support it. Instead, they strongly encourage support of the narrowly-focused Gaetz bill, which has no provision for preventing injuries. It appears that Representative Radar’s thank you was based on a misunderstanding of the Grey2K position.

Effectively, Grey2K is taking a stand against protecting greyhounds.

Why would they do that? There are several interesting answers, none of which has anything to do with greyhound welfare.

Carey Thiel, Executive Director of Grey2K is also on the board of Stop Predatory GAMBLING. If greyhound racing is brought to an end, so is a source of GAMBLING, in view of which, supporting a bill that enforces better conditions for greyhounds is counterproductive.

In addition, and ironically, several tracks have been very supportive of Grey2K in recent years, as they would like to back out of the agreement that requires live racing in order to offer other forms of gambling. If Grey2K endorses a bill that places responsibility upon these tracks to implement safety measures, it would certainly dampen their support. So faced with a choice between protecting greyhounds and protecting tactical relationships, Grey2K has turned away from the greyhounds they claim to work for.

Finally, and most importantly, consider that Grey2K and donation campaigns are almost synonymous. This very month of April, Greyhound Adoption Month, their Facebook page featured a warm and fuzzy piece about adoption, followed by a series of fundraising opportunities. One might reasonably expect the proceeds of those fundraisers would be explicitly earmarked for adoption, but no. All resulting DONATIONS go directly and silently into Grey2K coffers.

In the context of the Smith Radar Greyhound Protection Bill, the Grey2K math seems to say, if we genuinely protect racing greyhounds thereby reducing injuries, the cash streaming in will SLOW down. Conversely, if we defeat injury-preventing safety measures, effectively helping to increase the number of injuries, we are gaining a larger database to exploit for fundraising. And as for the tracks, once those relationships have served their purpose, they can be discarded.

Genuine greyhound protection is nowhere in this picture.

Copyright 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015


By Dennis McKeon

Social media has been a boon to those of us who are Racing Greyhound enthusiasts. That’s the case, whether we breed or own active racing dogs,whether we are adopters of retired Greyhound racing athletes, or even if we are only admirers of graceful, powerful and elegant creatures, who are as unique and endearing as they are mercurial and ethereal.
The willing exchange of information is voluminous, generous and instantly forthcoming, relating to all aspects of Greyhound antiquity, history, bloodline, temperament, disposition, care and maintenance--whether about their lives as racers, as breeders, and in the hundreds of thousands, as retired pets. Greyhounds now compete, in retirement, at agility, obedience, lure coursing, and amateur straight racing. More recently, they have been well-cast as therapy and service dogs. Truly, they are a remarkable and diverse breed, with an equally remarkable and diverse ownership base, within and outside of racing--one which transcends many of the identity group barriers that society and media seem to have ordained for us.
There is one, big rub, however. The controversies that have swirled around the Racing greyhound and the business of greyhound racing, for the past half-century and then some, remain infamous, unabated, and bitterly divisive.
Romeo & His Bunny
It used to upset me to the point of distraction, many years ago, to read the various newspaper reports of the era, which insisted that Greyhounds, who were often coursers of Midwestern Jackrabbits prior to embarking on their careers as track racers, were made bloodthirsty and vicious by engaging in this most elemental of their various functions--and that is why they needed to wear muzzles.
I would often read the morning paper while bolting down breakfast, or a reasonable facsimile thereof , sitting on the edge of a crate containing a sweet-natured, doe-eyed, ear-nuzzling female, who would be simultaneously looking over my shoulder--not at the newspaper--but at the donut bag on the grooming bench, knowing there had to be a treat somewhere in there for her. I wonder now, looking back on it, what she might have thought of such an egregious and unenlightened mischaracterization of her, and her brothers and sisters.
No matter. The people with the media bully pulpit, and who wouldn’t have known a Greyhound from Grey Poupon, won the war of words. If you wanted to call it a war, that is. As there was barely any response from those of us who worked our fingers to the bone and our feet to bloody stumps, seven days a week, with no time off for good behavior, caring for, waiting on, and doting over these magnificent but ever-needy, fellow pilgrims. Once in a while, one of the racing folks who had begun the then novel, formal process of adoption, would get a chance at some media exposure, to plead the case of an unfairly stigmatized breed, but the damage, for the most part, had been too deep and too grave. A breed’s reputation had been ruined to protect the pestilence of Jackrabbits.
Fast-forward to the present day, and not a lot has changed in that regard, in spite of the phenomenal popularity of the Racing Greyhound as a pet in retirement. Finally, triumphantly, he has been vindicated by a public, once so grievously misinformed. The pop narrative, nevertheless, is still being spun by those who know and understand the least about him, and who have no future vision for him, beyond the cushions of a sofa.
However, social media has allowed truly informed and Greyhound-knowledgeable people to at least get a word in edgewise, and to reach out to those who sincerely wish to know the truth about their Greyhound’s lives prior to retirement and adoption, and the existential realities of a meticulously bred population of canines, who still have a real purpose, and who are still a supremely functional breed.
Whether one approves of that purpose or not, should be immaterial to the polite and well-modulated dissemination of Greyhound related information or anecdotes, by Greyhound professionals, to the Greyhound’s public. I can’t stress this enough. Like you, I take extreme exception to having been stigmatized as a member of some sort of demented misery and death cult, due to my (former) professional association with greyhound racing as a trainer. Like you, I sometimes have to walk away from the laptop (or turn off the cell phone), when encountering ignorance so profound, that it almost burns the eyes to read the drone-like drivel and sometimes hateful spew.
No one said it would be easy. In that sense, it’s almost like training a litter of green, undisciplined, rowdy puppies, who reflexively go against the grain of every shred of structure and mannerly behavior into which you try to cajole them, and instill within them. As we well know, otherworldly patience is sometimes required.
The truth of the matter is, that social media has given the Greyhound professional the opportunity to undo 50 years of negative stereotypes, and Greyhound mythology. This entails, more than anything else, winning hearts and minds.
Knee-jerk and aggressive, angry responses to false clich├ęs and outrageous generalizations, that we have all heard and read thousands of times, are counter-productive to winning those hearts and minds. They only reinforce the negative stereotypes, and serve as a barrier to the dissemination of the truth, and to the Greyhound’s public reaping the benefit of your most valuable experience.
For every pot-stirrer who is convinced that by reading propaganda and mythology, they have no need to listen to anything you have to say, there are hundreds following along, who will judge your veracity and credibility by how you deal with that sort of provocation. You may be entirely justified in wanting to lash out at the sheer bigotry of it. But those innocent bystanders have not walked a mile in your shoes, and you may very well be the first person they have ever encountered who deviates from that popular and patently false narrative.
There is more at stake here than livelihoods, the security of families and careers. There is an entire population of Greyhounds to consider, and any future populations of them, which will be utterly devastated, should we fail to win enough of those hearts and minds.
Lecture over. Go hug a Greyhound.
copyright, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Truth About Injury Reporting

By Dennis McKeon

Let’s be clear about one thing. Any legislation that requires injury reporting without accountability, on its face, is an exercise in futility. The mere reporting of injuries without mandates to insure that all necessary steps are taken by those whose responsibility it is to provide as safe and hazard-free racing venue and surface as is humanly possible, isn't worth the paper it is written on.

The often reported fabrication that injuries have been magically reduced as a result of simply adopting an injury reporting program, is pure, unadulterated nonsense. Injury reporting alone, has no more effect upon reducing racing injuries to greyhounds than does the mere reporting of automobile accidents alone have in reducing injuries to drivers and passengers. There has to be accountability.

Moreover, if there were no injury reporting in a state, how is a comparison to be drawn once injury reporting has been employed? If there were no injury reports, where did the comparative data come from that suggests the mere reportage of injures can somehow reduce them? And in the case where racing programs are reduced from year round to seasonal, as in Massachusetts, then there should be an equal, relative reduction in injuries, with or without injury reporting. There is no cause and effect achieved upon the greyhounds or the racing surface itself, by the simple filing of a document.

The Gaetz injury reporting bill, recently passed by the Senate in Florida, is just such a piece of junk legislation. It is not designed to reduce and prevent injuries to greyhounds, but is crafted to burden veterinarians and greyhound breeders and trainers, (even those breeders and owners who are out of state), with paperwork and bureaucracy.

Additionally, it will accomplish nothing more than providing non-contextual fodder for donation seeking anti-racing propagandists, ultimately to no one’s benefit---other than the racetracks who wish to transition into casino operation, or full-fledged casino operations, without ever having bid for those privileges. It is the management of those racetracks who are and always have been responsible for the condition of their racing surfaces and all related equipment.

No bona-fide or ethical greyhound advocate, within or outside of racing, could possibly be oblivious or antagonistic to the need for mandating more diligence on the part of those racetracks in doing a better job than they have been recently, while noting the widely reported rash of injuries and fatalities at Florida’s racetracks---and the transparent and attendant cries for “decoupling”.

Which is simply code for : “We were granted permission to conduct casino and card room wagering only because we already were already licensed for Pari-Mutuel wagering. Knowing that expanding into those operations would negatively impact the wagering on our greyhound races, we agreed to share a small percentage of that revenue with the kennels, for not making a big fuss, and for allowing us to circumvent the usual balloting and bidding procedures, and to rake in a windfall. Now that we have gotten what we wanted, and after years of having failed to promote greyhound racing, we would like to renege on that arrangement.”

Can you spell “conflict of interest”?

The Greyhound Safety Act is pending legislation that not only requires injury reporting, but requires that racetrack management and their racing departments do a better job of maintaining a safe racing surface, as well as updating their electronic lure equipment to fail-safe them from presenting shock and concussion hazards to the greyhounds.

Racetrack surface maintenance is a science. It involves a lot more than just running a drag over the racing surface so that it looks nice and smooth. Two critical factors in analyzing and evaluating the safety of a racing surface are its component makeup (relative amounts of sand, silt, clay), and injury reports. Noted veterinarian and canine biomechanical expert, Dr. Rob Gillette, has this to say, regarding the proper use of injury reports and their role in managing a racing surface:

“Two ways to assess the racing surface are by using injury reports or by analyzing the surface. Injury reports can be used to determine the status of the racing surface. If there is a rise in injuries the racing surface should be considered as a possible cause. Certain injuries are related to various surface problems. This is a controversial way to assess the racing surface because changes to the track occur after the injuries have occurred. The surface itself can be analyzed for changes or problems. The content can be analyzed or base measurements can be determined. This method is better in preventing injuries…

Each racing facility regulatory veterinarian should keep a record of racing injuries. If a sudden increase in numbers occur, the racing surface should be evaluated for surface alterations. There can be seasonal variation in injury numbers, but these will be documented by the injury records. Certain track conditions will produce injuries related to that condition...

Assessing the racing surface using injury reports is one way to assess racetrack status. It requires little effort by the individuals involved and requires minimal knowledge of the racetrack mechanics. Its drawback is that the injuries have occurred before any evaluation is possible…

Once the basic information is accumulated to understand the normal paw-to-surface interaction the racing surface can be analyzed periodically for detrimental surface changes. That way surface problems can be detected before the injuries occur. The information required to have a basic knowledge of the foot-surface relationship includes content materials and RATIOS, base depths, force absorption, and surface traction.”

So we can see that while injury reports are a necessary adjunct to assuring optimal greyhound safety while racing, they are in no way a panacea. The cynical, out of context use of them to simply gin up public outrage and to raise pity donations for phony advocacy groups, without any mandates for racetrack management to finally begin to avail themselves of 21st century technology in preparing and maintaining their racing surfaces, is a waste of time and money. Unless, of course, your endgame is to impel more, not fewer injuries, so that your political agenda can be achieved.

Support the Greyhound Safety Act, co sponsored by Senator Chris Smith and Representative Kevin Rader---the only pending legislation in Florida that will actually help to prevent injuries to racing greyhounds.

Copyright, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Poisoned Well

By Dennis McKeon

The purpose of this essay is to call attention to and to deconstruct some of the basic mythology that exists and is rampant on social media, concerning the greyhounds we know and love. This mythology not only misrepresents the history and legacy of the greyhound, but also falsifies what is the norm in greyhound life and existence prior to adoption, sometimes going into erroneous and counter-intuitive detail about things such as diet, parasitology, temperament, care, socialization and the cause and effect of the greyhound’s life as a performing athlete. This can lead to a myriad of misunderstanding among those who are breed novices or novice adopters, and can cause complications and misinterpretations of behaviors when greyhounds are in the challenging process of being habituated to an entirely new life in adoption.

For example, there is a commonly expressed observation that, frankly, simply flies in the face of everything we know to be true about the cause and effect of selective breeding to a specific function, upon a population of dogs.
The vast majority of today's greyhounds are bred to race--and for no other reason. While it is indeed fun for them to simply run, they are driven by nearly 100 years of selectivity and genetically ingrained demand to "lead the pack", which is the object of racing. The only greyhounds who are used for breeding, are greyhounds who showed the most intense desire and drive to lead the pack, and to compete furiously for that privilege.
Greyhounds Racing
While not every greyhound born and who later goes into adoption expresses that as a racer, most of them do, to the best of their ability, and as a matter of inheritance. Now that is a facet of most greyhounds that people who have been misled about the breed, might not be prepared to cope with, should it manifest in some way, and particularly if the greyhound has no athletic outlet for that expression and desire.
The tendency, in light of the litany of misinformation that is readily available to the novice, is to disconnect the individual greyhound from the population of greyhounds--- the population from where all greyhounds emerge, that is the wellspring of genetic diversity and breed adaptation, and which has been engendered and supported by function alone, and the monies it generates.
Unfortunately, the well of perception, regarding racing greyhounds, has been thoroughly poisoned. The toxic mythology, much of it negative and some of it downright hateful, which has been created about the Racing Greyhound, has become so ingrained within the public mind and the mainstream of pop-greyhound culture, that it must be tempting for a novice greyhound adopter to take some or even all of it, without a huge block of salt.
The core of misunderstanding stems from the simple inability of some people to grasp a very basic and logical concept. And that would be the idea that a population of working/sporting dogs, who are bred meticulously and with the highest degree of selectivity, can be perfectly happy, fulfilled and content doing exactly what it is that they have been bred to do for centuries, or an improvisation upon that function---which is what greyhound racing is to hunting and coursing.
And when succeeding at that function is in a large part reliant upon the greyhounds’ optimal physical, mental and emotional well being, and where the humans who care for them are reliant upon that success for their own security and existence, we have achieved equilibrium.
It is simply not true that what we perceive as traditional "pet life" is necessarily the most appealing or satisfactory life for a young greyhound, at the peak of fitness, and driven by millennia of instinct that has been relentlessly honed, generation after generation, for centuries.
Moreover, I would suggest that suppression of such ingrained and genetic demand is not at all in the best interest of the vast and overwhelming majority of greyhounds, and would have significant physical and emotional consequences for the individual, were there no tightly regulated outlet for the immutable demands of DNA, heritable behaviors and collective consciousness.
The periphery of pop greyhound mythology is populated by straw men, who are entirely averse to grasping the holistics of greyhound nature and disposition.
Greyhound Pups Playing Keep Away
Greyhounds, for example, "play" with their littermates at a very early stage, and their play consists of chasing things. This play can be chasing one another, chasing a fur attached to a rope, or a drag lure, or even chasing a lure attached to a whirlygig. Racing and competing with one another is the ultimate and definitive "play expression" of a breed that is driven by desire and design, to do that very thing.
So the inanimate pet toys we buy in the store might very well have no intrinsic appeal to a dog whose derivation of play pleasure comes from chasing down and capturing moving creatures or objects.
As far as I know, there have been no studies done to suggest that the infamous and mythological maladies of "Stair Deprivation Syndrome" or "Glass Door Deficiency" are contagious, or pose any significant existential threat to the population of greyhounds, worldwide.
The very suggestions that racing greyhounds who live on breeding establishments or in kennels, not to mention adopted greyhounds, who happen to live in single story ranch style houses, or in homes with only wooden doors, are in any way suffering from being deprived of stairs or large rectangles of glass, are probably two of the most revealing applications of unreason that I can think of, as it concerns the popular perception of greyhounds--who, incidentally, during their time as racing athletes, have probably never ridden in an automobile, been on a boat, or driven a motorcycle, either.
Deconstructing the pop mythology of the greyhound is of paramount importance, and should be to anyone who wishes for the breed to be completely understood, appreciated and embraced for whom and what they actually are, not what our inner "Walt Disney" imagines they are, or should be.
This litany of nonsense and propaganda has caused inestimable problems for pet owners, who consistently, through no fault of their own, can fail to intuit perfectly normal greyhound behaviors as such, and who are then likely to infer that their dog was in some way abused or mistreated---when nothing of the sort was actually the case. The very idea that the greyhound might pine for his previous, well-structured, mentally and physically stimulating life, as a member of a racing colony of his peers and packmates, is beyond conception for many within the sphere of his retirement.
It is, in many ways, a modern tragedy.
Regardless of which side of the divide we are on, the greyhounds we adopt are racing greyhounds, who have, in most cases, raced. Whether we approve of the business of racing greyhounds never crosses the greyhound's mind. He is what he is, irrespective of business models, human narratives or moral constructs
In any event, it is always to the greyhound's and the adopter's advantage to be informed of what is the "cause and effect" of tightly focused and highly selective purpose-breeding, and what is the existential norm for the majority of greyhounds. Nothing any of us say here can mute the essential nature of the purpose-bred greyhound, or entirely clarify the sometimes difficult process of habituation to life as a pet for the dogs themselves.
But when that process is begun from the vantage point where we have entirely dismissed the possibility that a purpose-bred dog, within a colony of purpose bred dogs, cannot possibly have been perfectly content and fulfilled--that when his adjustment becomes problematic, or his behavior inscrutable, we presume it cannot possibly be because there is now a great void in his life, or because he might actually have preferred things as they were, then we may have distorted his reality in our own minds, to a degree where it can become exponential and holistic--and not to his short or long-term benefit--or to the adopter's.
copyright, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Block & Delete, the Grey2K & AR (animal rights) Way

Much ado has been made about this blog not publishing ANONYMOUS comments. We do that because we believe people should not be able to hide behind ANONYMOUS, that they should have enough courage of their convictions to post a name.  If someone posts their name, they get published. However, courageous people who post on the Grey2K FaceBook page or the Grey2K blog, don't get that much consideration.  What happens is that Grey2K immediately deletes the post and blocks the person.  Grey2K gets rid of people who question them and their comments; those who seek clarification or who want to clarify and provide a counterpoint to a statement.

Here are some FaceBook comments on the Grey2K policy to delete & block.

Erin Walker: LOL. They just blocked me,  can no longer comment on their site. I wasn't even that nasty either!! Someone had commented on one of their posts asking where they could get a greyhound, Grey2K responded with their adoption referral I looked and noticed that a lot of states weren't even represented in their list. (according to their list I couldn't even adopt in my state) So I asked why they offered so few adoption groups as options? Do you get kick backs from these groups? I said that there were tons of groups they could adopt from and probably some in their area, I gave a few options, and said they could google adoption groups in their area, and said that you can even adopt from the tracks...Wonder which part they didn't like...
January 27

Kevin Muckleroy:  I just got blocked because of a post I put on Grey2k. To tell you how bad they lie, they were at my home track yesterday for the matinee. Christine took pictures of the parking lot from over 1/4 mile away saying that the parking lot was empty. Wrong!! Then the she posted a picture from the empty seats on the first floor pointing out all of the empty seats. Well of course they were empty. It was two hours before post time! The attendance for Wednesday's matinee was over 500. Where were the pictures of the packed club house? Just another way for these idiots to deprive the public of the truth. Thursday night had an attendance of over 1000. I don't believe that we will be closing the doors anytime soon as they advertised. What Burns me up? If you're going to fight, fight fair!! Don't continue to lie to gain support. If you want to debate a subject, then debate it. Don't delete the other side because you are too chicken shit to hear the truth!!
March 14

Melony Cleveland: Awesome, I made 2 comments on Grey2K USA's wall and got myself blocked and had my comments removed!
July 2

Delete & block is SOP (standard operating procedure) for not only Grey2K, but pretty much ALL animal rights zealot groups & forums. After all, they like keeping their minions dumb & miserable. Think about it, do you believe they would get 1/2 of the donations they get if people were informed as to the truth of situations?

In May, Lyman High School (mascot is the Greyhound) used to hold an event at Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. The event was not held during racing hours and it raised money for greyhound adoption groups. That was the SOLE purpose for the event.  So, this year, Animal Rights of Florida (ARFF) and other AR groups, put untold pressure on the school district and board. They got the event cancelled.

Lyman HS Greyhound vs Racing Greyhound

It's a shame that the school district caved in to the pressure from the AR zealots. What a shame for the kids of Lyman High School but, most especially, this really hurts the adoptable Greyhounds that benefited from the funds raised.

Here is a wonderful photo essay on last year's event on the Orlando Sentinel.

Since there is no gambling involved and no greyhound racing, we can safely surmise that this action was purely to make the adoptable dogs do without. Once again the ARs prove they really don't care a plugged nickle about the dogs. The haters just keep on hating and the domestic terrorists win.  And, believe me, the anti's are gloating.

A victory for Greyhounds?  I think not.  They are the ones that lost this one...  lost adoption funds...  lost opportunities for people to meet & adopt dogs...  and probably lost homes.  Where is the concern for the dogs?

Some were quite upset at this turn of events and contacted ARFF.  As usual, comments were deleted and the person commenting was blocked.

Brandi's comment was not nasty or unkind. It just pointed out that the only thing accomplished by their action in getting the event cancelled was to take needed adoption funds away from the groups that work day in & out with the dogs.  The groups that provide direct care and support.

Another supporter of the event, Aimee, contacted them too.

Her comment, pointed out the loss of much needed funds and asked ARFF if they were going to replace that much needed money.  She pointed out how short sighted they were and how selfish.
Her comment was also deleted.

And Ellen's comment didn't last long at all, being taken down within minutes of being posted.

In the past, this event has garnered anywhere from $500 to $1300 in donations for adoption groups and Sanford Orlando Kennel Club added money to it. Sanford Orlando dollars were 100% matching, adoption groups have been denied anywhere between $1000 and $2600, maybe more.  That's a lot of dog food.

So, in response to the criticism and comments about lost adoption funds, Animal Rights Florida posted, 
"... We provided Lyman with over 100 fundraising ideas for high school students, so they could continue to help rescued greyhounds."
C'mon ARFF...  why don't you, Grey2K, and HSUS cough up the $2600 that you denied the dogs.? Rather than offering platitudes, offer something substantial and beneficial.

Lie & Deny; Delete & Block....  It's all SOP for them regardless of who or what gets hurt.

Screenshot Proof of deleted comments
You just gotta love the ARs and GREY2K. Such accepting, considerate, and respectful people. The best of the best of humankind! My very first ever comment on one of their last posts not only went unanswered, but was deleted. I also can no longer comment on their posts/page. Really great people there...if you're one of their zombies!

They don't want people to ask questions because the answers, if they are answered truthfully, can only hurt their agenda. They want people who'll follow blindly, parrot their words and who can't be bothered to find out the truth for themselves. It's difficult to make people change their minds once they've chosen sides because they don't want to feel stupid for choosing the wrong side in the first place.

The pro racing community on the other hand, has shown only acceptance, respect, and a desire to TEACH the truth. 

Yours in greyhounds....