Greyhound racing in New England staggers after two big tracks shut down
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2005:
PLAINFIELD, Ct., BELMONT, N.H.–The last big bet on
greyhound racing in New England may be whether it survives at all,
after two of the five top tracks in the region closed within two
weeks of each other in April and May 2005.
The Plainfield Greyhound Park in Plainfield, Connecticut,
opened in 1976, closed at least temporarily on May 14, after
rushing through the 100 racing days it had to offer in 2005 to keep a
New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese, of Trumbull,
Connecticut, acquired an option to buy the dog track in 2004.
Arganese closed the track, he said, in order to proceed with a $343
million plan that would use the site for a 140,000-seat auto race
track, a convention center, a 700-room hotel, and an
800,000-square-foot shopping center.
But Arganese is hedging his bets.
“We’re hoping to have dog racing back by the end of 2006,” he said.
Susan Netboy, president of the California-based Greyhound
Protection League, touched off an Internet frenzy on April 29 when
Hartford Courant staff writer Steven Goode paraphrased her warning
that as many as 1,500 greyhounds might be homeless when the
Plainfield kennels close.
“About a thousand dogs need to be moved,” amplified New York
Times writer William Yardley a week later. Yardley noted that since
Plainfield was by reputation a slow track, few of the dogs would be
likely to have even a brief future racing elsewhere.
“The track has been struggling for years,” employing just
100 people, down from 350 at peak, “and the big racers have left.
If you have more than 500 dogs in the kennel, I’d be surprised,”
said Plainfield animal control officer Terry Foss.
Responded Greyhound Pets of America executive secretary Liz
Ardell, representing the greyhound industry, “Greyhound Pets of
America, the American Greyhound Track Owners Association, the
American Greyhound Council, and the National Greyhound Association
have a plan in place to contact reputable adoption groups and get
retired greyhounds transported to them.”
“They’re counting on everyone else to solve their problems,”
said Animal Rescue League of Boston spokesperson Tom Adams.
The Lakes Region Greyhound Park in Belmont, New Hampshire,
closed probably for the last time on April 30, 2005. The owners
surrendered their racing license, avoiding a scheduled May 3
revocation hearing, Associated Press reported, and “are negotiating
to sell the track to a developer.”
Former Lakes Region Greyhound Park general manager Richard
Hart and assistant general manager Jonathan Broome were among 17
people indicted in January 2005 for allegedly running a five-state
illegal betting ring. Indicted with Hart and Broome were three
alleged Gambino crime family figures.
At least six members of the Hart family, some now suing each
other, were involved in running the Lakes Region Greyhound Park.
The Hart family bought the track in 1991, three years after Richard
Hart and his brother Kenneth were convicted of illegal gambling in
The Lakes Region betting handle fell from $1.4 million during
the week before the indictments to just $262,000 in the week before
the track shut down.
Along with the Lakes Region and Plainfield greyhounds,
rescuers are still seeking homes for dogs displaced by the December
2004 closing of the Multnomah Greyhound Park in Portland,
Oregon–the last greyhound track on the west coast.
“We’re taking in as many dogs as we can, as quickly as we
can,” Greyhound Friends founder Louise Coleman told Sweet.
Two other New England greyhound tracks closed briefly while
the Lakes Region and Plainfield shutdowns were underway.
“Both Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park and Revere’s Wonderland
dog track have been forced to close periodically over the past few
weeks as greyhounds have fallen ill,” explained Boston Herald
reporter Scott Van Voorhis on April 29. About 280 of the 1,400 dogs
housed at Raynham/Taunton fell ill, the track acknowledged.
Greyhound industry spokespersons called the outbreaks “kennel
cough.” Grey2K USA cofounder Carey Theil said it was a more serious
disease that had occurred at tracks elsewhere in the U.S.
In January 2005 the Tucson Greyhound Park was quarantined due
to an outbreak that the Arizona Department of Racing called “kennel
cough.” At least three dogs died during a 10-day outbreak in
February at the Daytona Beach Kennel Club. Racing was interrupted
due to “kennel cough” in April at the Gulf Greyhound Park in La
Marque, Texas, and was suspended on May 6 at Dairyland in Kenosha,
By May 7, Van Voorhis updated, “Rhode Island’s Lincoln Park
has seen six greyhounds die in less than two weeks from what may be a
form of canine influenza.”
The disease issue heated up in New England just after the
Massachusetts Board of Registration in Veterinary Medicine declared
that the treatment of five dogs by National Greyhound Association
board member Paul F. Kippenberger, DVM, “falls below the accepted
standards in the veterinary profession.” The board revoked
Kippenberger’s license to practice veterinary medicine, including
at the Raynham/Taunton and Revere tracks.
Division of Professional Licensure executive director Anne
Collins told Raphael Lewis of the Boston Globe that Kippenberger’s
case was “the worst veterinary case we have ever seen.” Kippenberger
prominently defended the greyhound industry during the unsuccessful
2000 Grey 2K effort to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts. The
initiative lost by just 2% of the statewide vote.