Work to End Greyhound Racing in Massachusetts

Posted on July 18, 2008


Marissa Dirks, Harvard SALDF president, wrote this editorial about the cruel dog racing industry, which appeared in The Record, the independent newspaper at Harvard Law School.

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

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 or 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.

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