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2005-05-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Contrary to the posts circulating on the Internet, May 14 is not "Greyhound Dooms Day". That is, as long as the racing industry is telling the truth. The Plainfield Greyhound Park in Connecticut will be closing this weekend (maybe temporarily), and many dogs will need to be placed, but the greyhound racing industry and reputable greyhound rescue groups are refuting the escalating e-mails predicting the destruction of between 500 to 1000 left-over racing dogs this Saturday.

According to a 5/5 "NY Times" article, dog tracks in the US are declining because of the competition of casinos. Plainfield really started struggling in the 1990s when nearby Foxwood and Mohegan Sun opened. On April 26 the track announced the sudden cancellation of live dog racing. Plainfield will still simulcast other races and possibly be refurbished as a grand arena. Greyhound racing could return there in the future. Owners will move some hounds to other tracks but all will have to vacate the kennels. This may be the biggest greyhound transfer ever. That’s why panic started in animal advocate circles.

When my first frantic message said that 500 dogs would die and the next said 1000, I tried to verify the claim by calling Greyhound Pets of America (GPA), the US’s largest non-profit ex-racer placement group which has some funding from the racing industry. Since 1987 GPA has found homes for over 65,000 greyhounds. GPA got me in touch with Cynthia Branigan. (Coincidentally Cynthia and I had run into each other at a Dog Writers dinner years ago where we had discussed our Afghans.) She heads Make Peace With Animals, a greyhound group that has 3 chapters including one on Long Island. She began her animal welfare work with Cleveland Amory and has written several award winning books about greyhound rescue. Cynthia assured me that the rescue groups would need help, but that the racing industry was cooperating, and that the mass euthanasia was unfounded.

Cynthia told me that last weekend the hysteria was so bad that vans and station wagons of individuals and small rescue groups were driving up to the track and carting away dogs. Some trainers were handing them over. They meant well; but may not be equipped to deal with the many facets of greyhound placement- medical, neutering, temperament testing, socialization, acclimation to a home- the way veteran sight hound groups do. The people had good intentions that could backfire for the dogs‘ welfare. Since then certain rescuers who have publicized the Plainfield euthanasia warning have been denied dogs at the track.

Over the years some of the rescue groups have learned to work with the tracks rather than view them as the enemy. Cynthia also said that Gary Guccione the head of the National Greyhound Association (NGA) gave his solemn word that the dogs would not die. For the Plainfield dogs, the NGA was doing the preliminary veterinary work including heartworm testing; setting up a $15,000 spay/neuter fund; and paying for the transport of dogs for any bona fide greyhound rescue. Track officials say that the kennels will stay open until a place is found for each animal. A rescue group in Massachusetts is supposed to coordinate the effort. All dogs for adoption will be evaluated for temperament, and tested with kids and other animals.

I need to mention that the greyhound effort has 2 camps- groups that work with the tracks to make the best of the situation and those who oppose racing all together. Although I’ve always been torn, I’m a practical Capricorn. These hounds exist in limbo now and I want to see them all "petted out" safely. Rescuers often have to hold their tongue to get what is best for the animal. I learned that lesson at the shelter years ago.

Cathy Groves who shared this column with me for a few years in the 1980’s now lives in Massachusetts. She was active in the Greyhound Y2K, a push to close all the tracks in New England. She and others are skeptical of the track’s claim. They think the dogs will die mysteriously or at a different track. Cathy feels, rightfully so, that no dog should endure the life of a racer, and that a transfer to another track is unacceptable. All animal welfare people know about the suffering of these poor track dogs who are literally "running for their lives". She says, "the rescue groups while saving many dogs, are also complicit in the continuance of racing. It’s a Catch-22". She feels the only way to stop the suffering is to stop the sport. I know my straight shooting Sagittarius friend will scrutinize every word I write.

So how can you help the Plainfield or any racing greyhound? If you’re politically inclined, help the efforts to ban dog racing. If you have room in your heart and home, inquire about adopting an ex-racer by contacting any of the established groups. Make Peace With Animals has 2 LI contacts- Lorraine Farrell at 516-922-1852 or Eileen Kelly at 631-277-6333. Two other local groups are Grateful Greyhounds 631-451-4163 and LI Greyhound Transfer- 516-735-6073. For this huge transfer, the rescuers will need monetary donations, foster homes, crates and volunteers to help transport or bathe the new additions. Any help is appreciated. Greyhounds are loving, trusting works of canine art who readily adapt to the life of a couch potato. The Plainfield racers deserve that luxury and a second chance.

The dogs and cats at Babylon Town Shelter ( 643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon are getting ready for the BAARC Animal Adoption Fair this Sat. May 14 outside Town Hall on Sunrise Hwy from 10 to 2. "Roxy" is a pretty spayed Collie mix in Cage 85 who was given up by her owner for a unique reason. She licked the other dog’s ears. "Buddy"-is a handsome neutered grey cat. Both poster pets are 3 years old. See more Babylon Shelter pets at: Petfinder NY 275.

•Males: "Tyson"- last week’s smiling Shep/Rottie in Cage 23 ; a Bichon in the Puppy Room; "Jake"- a 15 month Chow mix in Cage 3. He’s the new Town goose chasing dog who still needs a real home.

•Females: "Trinka"- an auburn Rottie mix in Cage 59.

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