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From 9 January 2005 Issue

Oregon Greyhound Track Too Slow for Owners To Keep
By Danielle Ring - daniellering@mindspring.com
www.daniellering.net

American greyhound advocates received some very good news just before the holidays: greyhound racing has left the west coast! Magna Entertainment Corp., which also owns several horse tracks across the nation, originally purchased operating rights for Multnomah Greyhound Park in Portland, Oregon in 2001. With the lease due to expire on December 31, 2004, Magna decided not to renew. As a result, there will not be any more racing at Multnomah.

For years, the Multnomah Greyhound Park was the only live greyhound race track on the west coast. California has no dog tracks and in 1996, Washington decided to specifically ban racing in the state.

Of course, Magna did not decide to close Multnomah because they suddenly realized that racing is a dead end for many dogs. They closed the park because people prefer to gamble on slot machines, video lottery terminals and Indian casinos.

Greyhound advocates frequently speak of a downward trend in the racing industry. Grey2K USA (www.grey2kusa.org), a group seeking to end dog racing, reports on their website that, "The U.S. dog racing industry now holds less than a 1% share of the $54.3 billion U.S. gambling market, according to figures in International Gaming and Wagering Business." And, in the past 14 years, over 18 tracks have closed or ended live dog racing as a result of economic decline (according to the Greyhound Protection League www.greyhounds.org).

A visit to any track reveals only a handful of dog race bettors-mostly old-timers. However, many tracks and states refuse to admit that greyhound racing is a dying industry. For example, Florida (the top racing state with 15 tracks) recently approved Amendment 4 to legalize slot machines. But instead of phasing out greyhound racing and focusing on the slots, the tracks keep the dogs running. Slot machine proponents argue that the influx of money improves the quality of the tracks and therefore the lives of the dogs. But greyhound advocates counter that the financial support simply props up an industry that breeds 34,000 dogs a year, only half of which are adopted by the public. The other half are either retained for breeding, killed, or simply disappear from the records.

It is probably wishful thinking to hope that other tracks will follow the lead of Magna Entertainment Corp. and let greyhound racing die a natural death. Unfortunately, a small number of people remain too influential. For example, two gaming centers in West Virginia had considered ending live greyhound racing, but the West Virginia Breeders Association is too powerful a group to convince. And so racing continues despite the dwindling crowds.

The greyhound racing industry has proven a formidable opponent to animal rights supporters. Professional spokespersons, expensive campaigns and charitable fronts all attempt to diffuse the underlying problem of large-scale animal exploitation. As the old story goes-as long as there is money to be made, people will fight for their right to make it.

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