Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
16 January 2000 Issue

Greyhounds Dying in Research Labs, The Real Finish Line
Source: AAVS's magazine, Falla 1999, Mike Winikoff, Director of Programs, The Ark Trust, [email protected]

Greyhound racing is a dying industry. It's dying as a business, due both to poor business practices by many of the tracks, and heightened activism across the country. It's also losing market share -- the market here being the gambling dollar -- to casinos, lotteries, and horse tracks. Even though Americans are gambling more and more of their hard-earned money, casinos and lotteries are knocking greyhound racing out of the market. If the pressure prevails, an end to greyhound racing in the United States is an attainable, foreseeable goal.

But greyhound racing is all about death, and thus is a "dying industry" in another, more sinister way. As long as it continues, it will kill tens of thousands of healthy, innocent animals every year. Some of these killings are by the tracks' "kill-vets"; some are conducted by kennel and track employees, and others occur after the dogs have been sent to laboratories. Since no federal or state agency keeps accurate tallies of the numbers of racing greyhounds killed, all we can do is find out kill figures from as many tracks as possible and extrapolate. Current estimates are somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 racing greyhounds killed annually at the 48 tracks still operating in the U.S.

As in so many animal using/abusing industries, those who are killed quickly may actually be the lucky ones. Greyhounds have long been preyed upon by vivisectors due to their docile nature, physical anatomy, and plentiful supply. One staff veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, has said: "Having been handled extensively in their racing careers, these animals are extremely tractable. They are friendly, lead easily, and stand quietly for bleeding and other non-invasive procedures."

But very few of the experiments being performed upon greyhounds in laboratories throughout the nation are "non-invasive," as we shall soon see. In fact, greyhounds rank with beagles as being highly desired for invasive experiments because, as with beagles, they are betrayed by their intense trust of humans. Few animals, and probably no other canines, would tolerate the type of abuse humankind has thrown their way without biting back. The qualities that greyhound guardians have come to love in these sweet creatures are the same qualities that condemn them to torture in laboratories.

Litigation is ongoing in several states concerning the supply of greyhounds to labs, and a brief review of vivisection-related greyhound incidents from recent years shows this is an area requiring more immediate attention on our part.

As part of The Ark Trust's ongoing investigation into greyhound racing, we asked Joan Eidinger of Greyhound Network News and several other activists around the country to send us anything they could find concerning greyhounds and vivisection. We were shocked at the volume of activity we uncovered.

Auburn University: Between 1996 and 1998, 254 greyhounds were donated from Alabama's four dog tracks to Auburn University. Many were donated without the consent or knowledge of their legal "owners." Of those 254, one was released to his human guardian and six others were released to adoption groups. The rest have since been killed, except for approximately 20 who remain in AU research labs. The dogs are used in orthopedic research and wound-healing studies, dissection labs to test surgery techniques, and as blood donors at the school's trauma clinic. The Executive Director of Auburn's Animal Resources Program told a local newspaper that the university has received dogs from all four Alabama greyhound tracks. Activist Cynthia Cash of Louisiana used the ear tattoos to track down the "owners" and discovered that many of them had no idea their dogs had been sent to the labs, though only a handful had any interest in trying to rescue their dogs.

Colorado State University: In July 1998, the Colorado Racing Commission suspended the license of Colorado Springs greyhound trainer Rick Favreau for donating greyhounds to Colorado State University without the knowledge or consent of the registered "owners." Favreau donated 197 greyhounds to CSU between June 1996 and March 1998. Another Colorado trainer, Larry Carlson, donated 159 greyhounds to CSU during a 39-month period.

For over a decade, CSU was a dumping ground for the state's greyhound breeders and kennel operators. CSU's Laboratory Animal Resources collected the dogs, processed them, and disposed of the carcasses. The cost averaged $120 per dog, a significant savings for the university, which otherwise would have paid about $400 each for purpose-bred research animals. This was also a sweet deal for the breeders who saved thousands of dollars in euthanasia fees. More than 2,650 greyhounds died at CSU between 1995 and 1998. Approximately one-third of the dogs were used in terminal teaching labs for veterinary students. After multiple surgery rotations, the dogs were killed. As the Greyhound Protection League's Susan Netboy has said, this unethical alliance "has allowed the university to become a virtual killing factory for the dog-racing industry."

James Voss, CSU's dean, told a local newspaper that each year, the school uses about 450 live greyhounds and kills another 500 soon after they arrive. He said the vet school makes no attempt to verify "ownership" of the dogs, even though the National Greyhound Association maintains a database that can be used to track any racing greyhound through the tattoos on their ears. "We simply haven't had the time or resources to track each dog," Voss said. "We are relying on the honesty of the trainers and breeders when they sign a form saying they have the right to turn over the dog." Voss went on to say the dogs they used would "likely die anyway, but by clubbing, shooting or other inhumane methods."

In June 1998, CSU announced it would no longer use live greyhounds for terminal teaching labs. But in early 1999, a controversial bill, House Bill 1228, was introduced at the request of Colorado State University to close its records to public scrutiny under the state's Open Records Act. It passed both houses of the Colorado legislature and was signed into law by Governor Bill Owens.

Kansas State University: Between January 1996 and May 1998, 111 greyhounds were donated for "research." Two adult greyhounds were adopted through KSU. The remaining dogs, including many puppies, were killed following the experiments. In 10 separate instances, females were donated with nursing puppies. (Curiously, this same public records request also revealed that the Topeka-based pet food company Hills Science Diet donated 25 beagles and six hound dogs to KSU over the same time period.)

In the Summer of 1997, activists discovered records confirming the use of 39 greyhounds at Mississippi State University. USDA records showed that 36 had come from the since-closed Greentrack. Most were used as part of hip-replacement labs; one healthy hip was removed from the dogs and replaced with an experimental synthetic material. The research was funded by Howmedica, a division of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. Some of the dogs were used as blood donors. In March 1997, the Greyhound Welfare Foundation and In Defense of Animals filed a lawsuit seeking custody of 12 greyhounds acquired by MSU from trainers at the Eutaw, Alabama dog track. Litigation is still ongoing in this case.

In early 1999, The Arizona Republic reported that a cancer researcher working at Barrow Neurological Institute had patented a way to give brain tumors to greyhounds in order to provide a ready supply of research models needed to test treatments for brain tumors in humans. It is unknown how many greyhounds are being used in Michael Berens' experiments, or who is supplying them.

From 1994 to April 1999, 595 racing greyhounds were donated to Iowa State University. Details of this situation are currently being compiled.

Such abuse of greyhounds in laboratories is not new. Between 1988 and 1989, at least 600 greyhounds were sold by two Arizona dog dealers to research facilities. Twenty greyhounds were slated for an eight-week bone-breaking experiment at the Letterman Army Institute for Research, but they were later released after protests by several animal protection organizations. In 1994, USDA documents showed that more than 170 greyhounds had been donated by several Tucson kennels to the University of Arizona since 1992. Greyhounds were used at the U of A for cardiothoracic and orthopedic experiments, to test anesthetic drugs, and to teach advanced trauma life-support procedures. U of A's Animal Care spokesperson explained why many labs preferred greyhounds: "Greyhounds have a chest cavity where the heart size and lung size is similar to a medium-sized woman or a small-framed man. And they are shorthaired dogs -- you don't have to wade through a lot of long hair."

These are simply a few examples uncovered by activists around the country, usually through their state's Open Records Acts, Freedom of Information Acts, or Sunshine Laws. The Ark Trust, as part of a major investigation into the greyhound industry begun in 1998, continues to compile such information as we look toward the year 2000 as the year we will hit the greyhound industry harder than it has ever been hit before. Working hand-in-hand with the massive network of pro-greyhound activists across the country, we fully intend to smash this "unholy alliance" between vivisectors and greyhound tracks and ensure that this dying industry does just that.

For more information about The Ark Trust's Greyhound Project, please write to
5551 Balboa Blvd., Encino, CA 91316; or by e-mail at [email protected]

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