Rescuing greyhounds from the most remote track in the world
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2009:
HAGNATA, Guam; BOSTON– Between the depressed U.S. economy
and the passage of an initiative ban on greyhound racing in
Massachusetts after January 1, 2010, greyhound rescuers expected a
winter of tracks closing and ex-racing dogs needing homes.
But few expected to be coordinating a major rescue on the
Pacific island of Guam –among the most remote of U.S. territories,
and until November 6, 2008 the most isolated outpost of greyhound
racing in the world.
Like the Wonderland and Raynham tracks in Massachusetts, the
32-year-old Guam Greyhound Track was killed at the ballot box–but
indirectly. The Guam Greyhound Track drew 250 to 300 people per night
in recent years, down from 800 per night in 1990, reported Steve
Limtiaco of Pacific Daily News. The track on November 4, 2008 asked
Guam voters to approve a proposition which would have enabled the
facility to build a $30 million convention center and expand into
casino gambling. When the proposition was defeated, track owner
John Baldwin halted dog racing and listed the property for sale at
Guam Animals in Need, founded in 1989, took in 39
greyhounds during the next month. Eleven were reportedly adopted
locally. Another 104 greyhounds remained at the track. Others turned
up here and there.
“Today we adopted one greyhound to a very caring and loving
family, but we rescued three in poor condition,” e-mailed rescue
volunteer Noni Davis on December 29. “We received a call from a
passer-by about two dogs tied to a boat in Umatac, down at the very
southern part of the island. I spoke to the owner and he said he got
them from the race track in the first week [after the closure] when
they started giving them away. He took a male and female to breed
and to guard his fishing boat. They were both emaciated. I
convinced him to sign them both over to GAIN. He wanted to be
assured that we won’t use them to race and then ‘make money out of
them.’ I informed him that they are now officially retired and will
never race again. I was also told that there are more greyhounds
around the track, as people are using the area as a dumping place
for unwanted greyhounds.”
Louise Coleman, founder of Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton,
Massa-chusetts, was already coping with dogs left by the seasonal
closures of Wonderland, Raynham, and three tracks in New Hampshire,
plus the bankruptcy of the Hinsdale track in New Hampshire. The
Greyhound Friends kennels can only accommodate 35 greyhounds at a
time, and usually Coleman has a waiting list of up to 200 dogs
awaiting the opportunity to be offered for adoption through Greyhound
Friends. But Coleman has previously helped to coordinate mass
greyhound rescues in Quebec, Ireland, and Spain, and knew what had
to be done.
“We are very happy to work with the Guam track to help them
transition these retired racers into the community in a thoughtful
and responsible manner,” Coleman diplomatically told Philip Leon
Guerrero of the Pacific News Center.
Joan Eidinger of Greyhound Net-work News publicized the
Greyhound Protection League founder Susan Netboy, of Penn
Valley, California, was point person for getting the Guam
greyhounds into the U.S.
“We have been in crisis mode for the last six weeks,” Netboy
told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “trying to save dogs and jump through
unimaginable obstacles in trying to get them to the states. The
first two arrived safe and sound at Los Angeles International Airport
this morning,” she said as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press. That
leaves 138 to go,” unless the GAIN volunteers find more at large,
also needing rescue.
The Massachusetts greyhound racing ban may not result in
large numbers of greyhounds going to rescues all at once.
“According to the state racing commission,” wrote Katy
Jordan of the Boston Herald, “the 2,066 racing dogs in Massachusetts
are owned privately by 336 individuals, 80% of whom live out of
state.” After the ban takes effect, industry sources told her,
“many dogs will race elsewhere.”
Grey 2K USA board member Paul LaLamme told Susan Morse of the
Portsmouth Herald News in November 2008 that after winning the
Massachusetts ballot initiative, Grey 2K will seek to ban greyhound
racing in New Hampshire as well–but New Hampshire does not have a
ballot initiative process.
The Hinsdale track opened in 1958 as a harness racing
facility. It added greyhound racing in 1973, dropped harness racing
in 1985, and offered only 50 days of racing in 2008.
“In October, after the racing season ended, the park gave
its greyhounds to several independent nonprofits,” wrote Concord
Monitor staff reporter Shira Schoenberg.
It filed for bankruptcy and surrendered its racing license in December.
“The track pulled in $5.9 million” in 2008, “a decline of
$2.6 million compared to the same period last year,” wrote New
Hampshire Union Leader staff reporter Garry Rayno. “The state’s
other tracks also have posted drops of more than $1 million in