Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why End Greyhound Racing?

On November 4, 2008, Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to put an end to the greyhound racing industry in the Commonwealth by voting Yes on Question 3.

Opponents of Question 3--primarily those involved in the greyhound racing industry--say that the two tracks remaining in Massachusetts (Wonderland Park in Revere and the Raynham-Taunton track) generate substantial income for state coffers while providing as many as 1,000 jobs. They argue that greyhounds are treated like athletes and do not receive inhumane treatment.  

Proponents of Question 3--those interested in seeing an end to commercial dog racing--say that the industry is inhumane.  They site the following: greyhounds spend at least 20 hours a day in cages barely large enough to stand up or turn around in; are fed cheap, raw meat that comes from dying, downed, or diseased livestock; and are injured at an unacceptable rate (nearly 800 injuries reported since 2002--80% of which were broken legs).

By its own admission, the greyhound racing industry is dying its own slow death.  Gambling receipts have declined precipitously, Wonderland chose to cut back to a seasonal racing schedule, and even a multi-million dollar bailout served up by the legislature has not resolved their ongoing problems.

So why not just let the industry continue on its path to decline? Why vote now to end racing? Because Question 3 calls for a phased end to racing by 2010.  This gradual closure allows kennels to move their "good" dogs to tracks outside of Massachusetts and allows workers to plan ahead for job transition.  On the other hand, if the tracks close down suddenly (as did the track in Plainfield, Connecticut in 2005), not only will workers suddenly be at a loss, but hundreds of dogs (those not "worth" transporting to another race meet) will suddenly be homeless.  Voting Yes on Question 3 allows the tracks, the employees, and the rescue network supporting greyhound adoptions to plan ahead for the end.

Both of our local newspapers--the Daily Hampshire Gazette and The Recorder--have come out against Question 3.  They say the industry is dying anyway, that abuse isn't a good enough reason to stop the income to the state, and that anti-racing advocates should take their case to the legislature.

Aside from the fact that anti-racing advocates have taken their case to the legislature on more than one occasion to no avail, any editorial position that doesn't consider evidence of systematic mistreatment of animals to be reason enough to end an industry is morally bankrupt.

The fact is that our society has been willing to accept a double standard for dogs who share our lives as companions and those used for commercial gain.  While we wouldn't leave our own dogs confined to a crate for 20 hours every day, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do. While we wouldn't feed our own dogs raw meat unfit for human consumption in order to save a buck, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do.  While we wouldn't shoot our own dogs up with cocaine to make them faster, force them to run until their legs break or their hearts give out, or prevent them from living a life of happy companionship, we have accepted that greyhound kennels do.

It's time to end greyhound racing in Massachusetts.  Vote Yes on 3.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Welcome to The Society Page!

Welcome to the first installment of the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society's new blog. We hope this forum will provide a place for animal advocates to learn about the latest work of the DPVHS as well as engage in respectful dialogue about some of the latest issues in our movement.

First, a little bit about us. The DPVHS was created in 2006 when the Dakin Animal Shelter of Leverett, MA merged with the Pioneer Valley Humane Society of Greenfield, MA. This event marked a new beginning for animal welfare in the Pioneer Valley region of western Massachusetts. You can learn more about our organization by visiting

As cold weather descends upon New England (and as my resident animal friends jockey for the best spot near the woodstove), I am reminded of the less fortunate souls relegated to a life outdoors.

At this time of year, the media draws our attention to the plight of homeless humans, huddling under blankets on park benches or competing for a cot at the local shelter. And rightly so. The tragic effects of homelessness can be seen even in small, rural communities like ours.

And the economic and social forces that lead to homelessness for humans are often the very same that lead to homelessness in companion animals--poverty, substance abuse, violence. We speak daily to people who love their animals but are forced to make choices between feeding their children or caring for their pets.

We also hear from some members of our community that people who can't afford to care properly for pets--vaccinating them, neutering them--shouldn't have them in the first place. They certainly shouldn't need handouts from the community to make sterilization surgeries or vaccines affordable.

At the DPVHS we realize that cats and dogs (and sometime rabbits and birds) wander into the lives of loving people with few financial resources. Maybe they had money when they first opened their doors and their hearts to a new dog. Maybe they just have a soft spot for stray cats. The fact of the matter is that people who can't afford regular veterinary care--or even good food--do share their lives and homes with animals. And without resources, the animals will suffer.

The DPVHS provides free pet food and supplies to needy people through our Pet Aid program in Greenfield. We are currently working on a program to provide Pet Food Meals on Wheels for the pets of seniors in Amherst. Our CatSnip, Feral Spay Sunday and other low-cost or free sterilization programs make pet sterilization surgeries accessible.

We know that a lack of choices often leads to homelessness for people and pets. We are here to provide the safety net that keeps animals in their homes.

What do you think?

Leslie Harris
Executive Director, DPVHS