Rush to defeat greyhound bill a sad occasion

By Mary Ann McDonald

The board members of the Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia (FOHOWV), a grassroots animal welfare organization, are saddened at the recent defeat of SB 285, which would have ended the subsidies to the greyhound racing industry in West Virginia.

We appreciate the support of Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who was the lead sponsor on this bill. He cited the treatment of the dogs as one reason to end greyhound racing, since the dogs suffer injuries and die. He said that death of the industry is inevitable and noted that across America, this activity is in drastic decline. It is legal in just a few states and West Virginia is the only one that subsidizes it directly.

The $17.4 million in subsidies comes from excess lottery money. Ending these subsidies would have allowed these funds to be used for roads, veterans’ services, substance abuse, senior citizen services, health care, state parks or education.

Every Democratic senator, along with 10 Republicans, voted to kill this bill. It was noted in the discussion of this bill that dogs die in West Virginia in the greyhound racing industry each year. “They do in every sport,” one senator stated. Another senator indicated that it would be wise for West Virginia to take advantage of the closure of the greyhound tracks in other states and create a monopoly on this industry in West Virginia.

SB 285 included $3 million for the retraining of workers in the greyhound racing industry who would eventually be phased out of their jobs. One million dollars would go to promote greyhound adoptions, and there would be a one-time $500 tax credit to anyone who adopted a greyhound.

More than 1,500 greyhounds live in stacked warehouse-style kennels in West Virginia with no limits on confinement. They are fed 4-D dog food which is obtained from diseased and dying animals and is the most economical choice. Drugs are routinely given to enhance racing performance. Since 2007, more than 800 disciplinary cases have been reported, including 100 drug cases and 19 cases of animal abuse. According to the racing commission, 69 greyhounds have died in five years. A recent survey by Mark Blankenship Enterprises found 81% of West Virginians oppose greyhound racing subsidies.

Sadly, those who profit from these subsidies are out of state greyhound breeders and handlers, so once again West Virginia and the greyhounds are the losers. We hope in the next legislative session, West Virginia can follow the rest of the nation and end this abuse.

Mary Ann McDonald is a board member of The Federation of Humane Organizations of West Virginia. She lives in Westover.