Greyhound racing ends on U.S. west coast

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2005:

PORTLAND, Oregon–Grey-hound racing
appeared to be finished on the west coast of the
U.S. on December 23, 2004, when Magna
Entertainment Corporation announced that it will
not reopen the Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood
Village, a Portland suburb.
Multnomah Greyhound Park animal welfare
coordinator Patti Lehnert told Eric Mortenson of
the Portland Oregonian that the 46 dogs left in
the kennels at the end of the 2004 racing season
would be kept until rehomed.
“It’s business as usual for the adoption
kennel, Lehnert said. “We will find homes; we
will place them.”
Betting at the Multnomah Grey-hound Park
fell from $25 million in 1995 to $11 million in
2002, reported Mortenson. Magna attributed the
decline to the rise of online gaming and Native
American casinos.

“Believe me, we know how big this is,”
Christine Dorchak of Grey2K USA e-mailed to
ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Our co-founder Carey Thiel grew
up in the shadow of the Multnomah Greyhound Park,
and dreamed as a young man of closing it. His
mother, Connie Thiel, who is president of
Oregon Defenders of Greyhounds, is ecstatic.”
“I’m ecstatic,” agreed Connie Thiel.
The opening of the Multnomah Greyhound
Park in 1957 actually represented a downsizing of
the industry, at that time in response to
competition from television.
The previous dog racing venue in Portland
was reputedly the biggest greyhound racing
stadium in the world, seating 30,000 bettors,
when opened in 1933. Greyhound racing left the
ever more obviously too large facility after the
1956 racing season. Converted to use by
professional baseball, it has been known since
then as Portland Civic Stadium, Multnomah County
Stadium, and currently, PG&E Park.
Magna acquired the rights to run both
horse races at Portland Meadows and dog races at
the Multnomah Greyhound Park in 2001. Based in
Toronto, Magna did not operate any other
greyhound tracks, but owned all or part of 12
other U.S. horse racing tracks, one in Canada,
and one in Austria.
Among the other Magna horse racing
facilities are Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate
Fields in California, Pimlico in Baltimore,
Thistledown in Cleveland, and Gulfstream in
“Ultimately, we don’t believe the
industry in Portland can support both greyhound
racing and horse racing,” Magna chief U.S.
counsel Scott Daruty told Mortenson.
About a dozen Oregon breeders supply as
many as 400-500 greyhounds to tracks around the
U.S., Carey Thiel estimated, but Wood Village
was their major venue.
“About 520 dogs on Oregon farms will turn
one year old in 2005,” Mortenson wrote. “Dogs
can race at 15 months.” On January 20,
2005 the Oregon Greyhound Association,
representing the breeders, filed suit against
Magna, seeking to force Magna to host the racing
The Magna contract with Multnomah
Greyhound Park property owner Art McFadden
“prevents anyone else from holding races at the
facility,” Mortenson wrote. “As if to emphasize
the point, Magna removed the starting boxes and
greyhound blankets and hauled them to Portland
Meadows ŠDog fanciers wryly note that the
starting boxes and blankets are too small to be
of much use at Portland Meadows.”
Alternatively, Mortenson reported, the
breeders may try to hold races at a small track
in Silverton.
No other west coast state allows greyhound racing.

No racing revival

Two years of rumors that Vermont Governor
James Douglas would seek to revive both horse
racing and greyhound racing at the Green Mountain
Raceway in Pownal apparently ended on December
13, 2004, when Progressive Partners Ltd. of
nearby Shaftsbury bought the 140-acre site for
about $1 million, and announced plans to
demolish the track to clear the land for a
mixed-use residential and commercial development.
Rutland attorney Jack Welch emphasized
that Progressive Partners has no interest in
promoting gambling.
Opened as a thoroughbred track in 1963,
the track struggled to break even for 13 years,
transitioning briefly to harness racing before
converting to greyhound racing in 1976. Dogs
last raced there in 1992.
In 1995 Scotti Devens, founder of Save
The Greyhound Dogs, and Sharon Bucklin,
president of Greyhound Rescue of Vermont, won
passage of a statewide ban on greyhound racing.
Quickly endorsed by then-Vermont governor Howard
Dean, the bill not only kept the Green Mountain
Raceway closed, but also killed 15 years of
proposals by Delaware North and other greyhound
racing promoters to build a track in St. Albans,
to lure gamblers from Montreal.

A rescue in Spain

Staff of the Scooby Refuge in Medina,
Spain, and local firefighters on January 6
rescued five galgos, as Spanish greyhounds are
called, from a deep well near the village of
Alaejos. Dumped to die, they were heard barking.
“It is believed from the stench coming
out of the well that it is a dumping hole for
unwanted galgos, and that decomposing bodies
remain,” said a Scooby press release.
“Galgos are protected under the Spanish
penal code,” the Scooby release continued.
“There are penalties for disposing of unwanted
dogs in this manner, which can lead to
imprisonment. Two men have surfaced since the
rescue claiming to own the galgos and demanding
they be returned. One man showed up at the well
just before the dogs were pulled out and
afterward reported them stolen. On the day after
the rescue, the other man claimed his dogs had
escaped. The dogs have tattoos, which could
lead to the arrest of the owners.”
Amplified by online activists, the
Spanish case drew condemnation from around the
world, as did a British case involving a dog who
suffered a toe injury, performed poorly, and
“was discovered by a walker in South Wales,
whimpering on a rubbish heap. The dog had been
shot through the head with a captive-bolt pistol,
his ears cut off to remove identifying tattoos,”
wrote Jonathan Brown of The Independent.
The dog was euthanized–but in a break
with history, his remains were identified.
Continued Brown, “In December 2004 at
Caerphilly Magistrates Court, in a case brought
by the Royal SPCA, Andrew Gough, 28, a
greyhound track groundsman, was sentenced to six
months in jail for his treatment of Rusty,” as
activists called the dead greyhound.
Allegedly paid £10 by the dog’s owner to
kill him, Gough also was banned from keeping
animals for life.
Two comparable U.S. cases involving many
more dogs meanwhile went almost unnoticed:
* Delroy Reed, 48, of Fort Gibson,
Oklahoma, faces a February 8 preliminary hearing
on 15 felony counts of neglecting greyhounds.
Reed was charged only with neglecting the
greyhounds who survived to be rescued in April
2004. Four dead greyhounds were also found on
the premises.
* Kenneth Sherrets Jr., of
Independence, Iowa, in October 2004 lost his
permits to race dogs in both Iowa and Wisconsin,
after 33 malnourished greyhounds were discovered
on his property.

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