Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Greyhounds and failed legislation in NH

greyhounds in central park

Last week in New Hampshire a bill was voted on, and defeated, which would have been a big step towards freeing greyhounds from the abuse and exploitation they suffer at the hands of their breeders and racers.

The bill would have made it a misdemeanor to “keep, breed, transport or train any dog with the intent that it or its offspring shall be engaged or used in commercial dog racing, or shall establish or promote a commercial dog race or meet.”

The article talked about it pitting the animal activists against money.

Mentioned were 500 jobs, $114K/year in racing fees, $50K in scholarships given to the town, Seabrook, where the racing track is, and $142K in property taxes. The implication is that were the racing to go away, there would be a complete reduction in all of these numbers. But that assumes that no other business could be found to put the property to use.

We are assured in the article that the state’s “Pari-mutuel Commission” inspected the track and found no abuse. Since the name of the commission is somewhat oblique, here is their description of themselves:

The Pari-Mutuel Commission is an agency of The State of New Hampshire. It regulates Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing, and Greyhound Racing in New Hampshire under RSA 284, Games of Chance Regulations under RSA 287-D, and Bingo and Lucky 7 Regulations under RSA 287-E. The Commission’s duties include the licensing of racetracks and individuals (jockeys, owners, trainers, etc.), collection of taxes and fees, Bingo, Lucky 7, Games of Chance, and operation of the State Racing Laboratory.

What is unclear is why, when the representative sent to inspect the racetrack “did not see any evidence of abuse”, there was no question raised as to a conflict of interest. It seems clear to me, anyway, that a commission existing for the purpose of supporting the continuation of various racing entities is not going to be likely to find abuses any time money (and therefore their own existance) is at stake, but especially not when there is a bill up for a vote that would directly impact them.

And this seems to be backed up, in investigations in 2005, where the main intent of the commission seems to have been to sweep the issue under the rug. In fact, when a bill was presented in 2004 to require racetracks to keep track of greyhound racing injuries, the director of the commission was hand in hand with the greyhound racers fighting this bill. It passed, and a year ago Paul LaFlamme, who first proposed the law, discussed the results.

When I fought for the passage of House Bill 520, I was surprised by the intensity with which racetrack lobbyists and regulators fought this humane law. Paul Kelley, director of the New Hampshire Pari-Mutuel Commission, even told a local television station that he “did not know what purpose it serves the public to track the number of dogs that are euthanized.”

In hindsight, I now know why the tracks fought so hard. Clearly, they do not want the public to know what is happening to greyhounds in our state.

It is a setback to have the bill fail; if it had passed, it would have been the first legislation outlawing greyhound racing to result in the closure of a track. Yet there is some comfort in seeing that the margin of its failure was far less than had been expected or hoped for by those profitting from the use and abuse of these dogs.

The bill, pushed by animal-rights activists, would have also created a committee to recommend ways to address the economic impact of closing the track. New Hampshire’s 400-member House defeated the bill by a 198-138 vote. The vote kills any further action on the bill this year.

“I’m glad the bill died. Greyhound racing means a lot of money to the town of Seabrook and the state of New Hampshire,” McCann said Wednesday. “I am a little surprised it didn’t die by a greater margin, since the bill came out of committee 14 to 3 in favor of it being defeated.”

Nothing more can be done in legislation in NH for a year, but hopefully the setback won’t stop the activists from educating the public. The greyhound exploiters and their supporters have made it clear that money is their main concern, and they do not have the moral fortitude to place the lives and well-being of the greyhounds over the flow of money into their pockets.

Paul LaFlamme is typical of people who will cautiously and conditionally support the abolishment of racing. If the abuse and high injury rate can be addressed, he would not support the abolishment of the racing. It is compassion that moves him to want better treatment for the greyhounds, but he does not make the connection that this exploitation can not ever be compassionate. People are too used to thinking of animals as “things” they can profit from, and that needs to be addressed if we are to abolish current exploitation and prevent new forms from taking its place.

dog treats outside foodswings

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4 responses to “Greyhounds and failed legislation in NH

  1. SoCalMuchacha April 2, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Unfortunately the pursuit of the almighty dollar tends to cause tunnel vision. Sigh.

  2. Pingback: Dog-Racing » Blog Archives » Am back and my arse hasn’t touched the ground!

  3. Pingback: Dog-Racing » Blog Archives » Iditarod wants independent study of cruelty charge (Anchorage Daily News)

  4. Deb April 3, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Very true. There are many individuals whose ethics prevent this tunnel vision, but it seems we’re too often trumped by the few power-wielding individuals.

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