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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