Support the proposed ballot question to ban dog racing

In light of this post from a few weeks ago, BMG’s endorsement of the proposed ban on greyhound racing (in the form of a ballot question on the 2008 ballot) won’t come as a shock.  But since the signature gathering is now in full swing, with only a few more weeks to go, now seemed like a good time to make it official: we support this ballot question, and we hope you’ll do so too.  You can donate money, or volunteer to help gather signatures, at this link; also, of course, look for a signature gatherer in a supermarket parking lot or other location near you.

The post linked above has a lot of information about dog racing in Massachusetts, including a link to a comprehensive report put together by the ballot question’s proponents (but which relies almost exclusively on news reports and information supplied by the racing industry).  So if you have questions, refer to that post and to the links it contains.  Then, if you still have questions, drop them in the comments, and we’ll make every effort to get responses from the question’s proponents.

Short version: the main reason to ban dog racing is that the dogs don’t come out of it very well.  They spend most of their lives confined in cages barely large enough to hold them.  But

The confinement, while perhaps not pleasant, isn’t really the worst of it.  The dogs get hurt in the races.  Not every dog, and not every race, but there are plenty of injuries.  Each month, on average, 6 dogs at Wonderland and 7 dogs at the Raynham dog track suffer injuries that are bad enough to report to the state.  The vast majority of the injuries are broken bones.  Some are bad enough to require that the dog be euthanized, and most take a long time to heal; the average recovery period, as estimated by the dog tracks, is 31 weeks.

Is there a countervailing jobs/economic development issue?  Sure, but one of the important things to recognize is that dog racing is an industry in steep decline, despite a big state-funded bailout a few years ago.  As David wrote in September:

And dog racing does appear to be a dying industry.  The total amount wagered from 2002 to 2006 has declined by 35% at Raynham and 57% at Wonderland.  And those numbers include forms of gambling other than dog racing — such as simulcast horseracing.  If you just look at the dog racing numbers, the decline is even more dramatic: a drop of 42% from 2002 to 2006 at Raynham, and a staggering 84% at Wonderland.  In fact, in October 2005, Wonderland went from year-round racing to a “seasonal” (half-year, roughly May to October) schedule, presumably because they felt that year-round racing was no longer economically sustainable.  (In case you’re wondering: the decline in amount wagered on dog racing at Wonderland from 2002 to 2004, the last full year of racing there, was 42%.  And the drop from 2004 to 2005 was over 50%, even though there was racing for 10 months in 2005.) … It’s hard for me to see any good reason to keep propping this industry up (as the lege did back in 2001 with a multimillion dollar bailout package whose returns have been far less than promised — a 2006 MetroWest Daily News article reprinted in the report says that, although the promise was that the state would receive $5 million a year, the returns were $3.1 million in 2002, declining to $2.1 million in 2005).

On balance, we think the costs of dog racing outweigh the benefits.  We hope you’ll agree, and that you’ll support the effort to ban it in Massachusetts.

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  1. If I were ruler of the universe...

    ...there would be no dog racing, and no horse racing.  Maltreatment of animals for the entertainment of supposed human beings is (and I'm not religious) a sin.  It doesn't matter how much money the state takes in.

    We have several families  in our neighborhood who have adopted rescue greyhounds.  The greyhounds are some of the friendliest four-legged people I've run across.

  2. I'd sign a petition and vote for it...

    but haven't seen anybody collecting sigs in my neighborhood -- one that would likely sign any of those petitions.  I wonder: in addition to grocery stores et al, are they hanging out in dog parks?  Seems they'd do quite well there.

    • Most dog park people have already signed

      at least at the places I go. I have seen the petition at local pet stores but I have not seen anyone hanging out on the street with the petition.

      With or without this ballot initiative the industry is most probably doomed in this state unless it is artificially propped up by the legislature. This is strictly an entertainment industry, which produces nothing and brings few visitors from out of state, so I don't think it deserves any special treatment.

  3. So glad this is back for another try...

    ...how can I get involved?

    • There's a link in the post's first paragraph

      • Re: Dog Racing

        I remember opposing this last time around because my parents knew people that would lose their jobs if it got banned. But regardless of whether or not we still know people working at the one track, these are not high quality jobs and there are not that many people employed at the Wonderland Track, the more important question is what do we value.

        This is a sport nearly as cruel as dog fighting and clearly should be banned so since I oppose organized gambling, animal cruelty, and the seedy armpit that is Wonderland I will wholeheartedly vote for this proposal.

        My one concern though is will this put more pressure on people to support casino gambling since arguably we will lose jobs and gaming revenue from banning this?

        If I had my choice between the three Foxwoods that will be moving in or having just the one status quo Wonderland I'd have to say I'd pick Wonderland.

        • THIS TIME...

          ....don't get suckered by dubious dog experts, trying to use horror stories from other states.  Our own state is enough.  Most dogs aren't abused by track owners, but why sacrifice them at all for a minor sport with dwindling appeal?

          The Vick factor is still strong in people's minds.  We ended bear baiting; we can end this.  But PLEASE - do it in a low key and rational way, not with PETA-People telling hyperbolic stories that the racetrack industry will shread, casting credibility into doubt.

          • Local and timely

            As the report( big freakin' PDF) says:

            blockquote1. All information is specific to Raynham Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park. 2. All information is recent and the majority of data relates to ongoing practices. 3. All information is sourced to state records, industry statements, and/or reports by mainstream news organizations. All photographs provided were taken by the Massachusetts dog tracks themselves.

            Looks like they are keeping this very much about what is happening right here in Massachusetts.

          • Using Data From Massachusetts

            Peter Porcupine:

            Your suggestion is a good one.  If you have a chance, check out the report we released a few weeks ago on commercial dog racing in Massachusetts.  In putting together this report, we followed three specific rules:

            1. All information is specific to Raynham Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park. 2. All information is recent and the majority of data relates to ongoing practices. 3. All information is sourced to state records, industry statements, and/or reports by mainstream news organizations.  In regards to pictorial evidence, all photographs were taken by the racetracks themselves.

            You can find the report online at:

            http://www.protectdo...

        • $quot; . . . these are not high quality jobs$quot;

          and that is exactly where the anti-dog racing people lose me in the debate. It's the way jobs - other people's jobs at least - are dismissed as being somehow less important in a values system.

          Be they lower paying or part-time jobs at a dog track, they may also be the paycheck diffrence for a family between paying a mortgage and losing a house. The difference between paying the co-pay on prescription or not buying the meds. The reality is, we don't know how important those estimated 1,500 jobs are to the people who work there.

          The loss of 1,500 jobs at GE (approximately 50% of that workforce or at Raytheon, say 60% of that workforce) would have the Governor scrambling and the Congressional Delegation running for funding to help displaced workers.

          I agree dog racing is a declining industry that may not survive. The numbers posted here show it losing revenue share and fan base. And I believe that if put on the ballot, the ban will pass. I just don't believe that one segment of the population should be committed to putting another segment out of work.

          I have had pets all my life. I would ban Vick from football for the rest of his career. I am sicken by deliberate abuse, the lack of regard for the worth of any living thing's life. But the reality is that dog racing isn't dog fighting. Neither is horse racing nor the circus. 

          Well regulated, properly funded oversight can and should protect animals where ever they may work or live.

          Finally, off topic a bit - I just plain oppose government by ballot question. I remain concerned that, even with the best intentioned cause, advocates for governing by ballot question may find they live and die by that sword.

          • The Greyhound Protection Act Includes a 14-Month Phase-Out Period ...

            Our intention is to phase out the industry in a responsible manner, and we are committed to working with the legislature to obtain assistance for anyone who might lose their job.

            Ultimately, though, our economy should not be built on cruelty to dogs.

            One final point - there have never been 1,500 people employed in this industry.  The actual number is probably half that, with most of those part-time.

            Yours, Carey Theil

            • Hey, I know!

              What if, as part of a job retraining program, we were to build three large buildings in which gambling and other forms of entertainment can occur?  The folks who work at the dog tracks might be able to get work there.

              Kidding!  Kidding!

            • Carey

              Janet Wu disagrees with you on the 1,500 jobs. I took that number from this story on the 2000 ballot question -

              http://www.theboston...

              If you have documented links of dog track jobs in Mass that will be lost, I would like to see them.

              • Dog Track Owners and Exaggerated Job Statistics

                Massachusetts dog track owners have a history of exaggerating the number of jobs that are employed at their facilities.

                Don't take my word for it.  Here is an excerpt on this very issue from the October 4, 2000 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

                "A web site run by the track owners' coalition (maic2000.org) points to job preservation as one reason for protecting the tracks.  The site says nearly 2,000 people in Massachusetts work full time and part time at the tracks.  But figures provided by track representatives add up to a total of only about half that.  Mr. Carney estimates his track employs somewhere between 135 and 150 full-time workers and 350 part-timers.  Richard Dalton, president and chief executive of Westwood Group and Wonderland, says that track has 450 employees in all and that he can't provide figures for the breakdown between full- and part-timers."

                You can find this online at:

                http://www.grey2kusa...

                If you would prefer something a bit more recent, a story published in the Lowell Sun on September 21, 2007 stated that Raynham Park employs 600 and Wonderland employs 350.  That story does not provide a breakdown between full and part-time.  You can find it online at:

                http://www.grey2kusa...

                I personally believe the Lowell Sun estimate is high.  I find it hard to believe that Raynham employs more today than in 2000, despite the fact that the track has experienced a significant economic decline in the intervening years.

                Yours, Carey

          • I think the kind of job does matter.

            Jobs that pay more result in more state income tax, and generally the opportunity for other state income as well [more expensive cars, etc].  It would make sense that the state would favor higher paying jobs.

            Many jobs that require high amounts of training synergistically attract other companies requiring highly trained workforces -- think biotech, defense, and finance.

            Jobs which require small skill sets and provide relatively low pay aren't as important to protect because there are many jobs like that out there, and the low training requirement makes it relatively easy for those former employees to find new work.  I emphasize "relatively".  It's rarely easy to find new work, especially when it's not on one's own timetable.

            That said, the Do Not Call list put telemarketers out of work.  Laws prohibiting 24 hour taverns put bartenders out of work.  Banning cigarette vending machines put cigarette vending repair men (and vending stockers) out of work.  Gun restrictions have put gun salesmen and factory workers out of work, which has hit New England particularly hard because many older firearm companies were located here.  Society has a long history of making decisions to restrict or prohibit industries based on overall social welfare.

            Hopefully some of the employees see the writing on the wall and leave their jobs before the job leaves them, either due to declining participation or to legislation.

            • Stomv - you point out three modern examples of job elimination.

              The factory, textile and shoe exodus of my younger years is so complete there is now a 'Museum of Work' in Woonsocket, to show what three-decker life (not a temporary student billet, but a lifetime) was like.

              S0 - what message are you sending to everybody who ISN'T a rocket scientist out there?  You aren't valuable to us, so move along, nothing to see here?

              I pity you when the time comes to have your bedpan emptied in a nursing home, and society's "long history of making decisions to restrict or prohibit industries based on overall social welfare", chiefly through underpayment of those without advanced degrees, kicks in.

              • You've missed stomv's central point,

                which is that society often acts to "restrict or prohibit industries" because those industries inflict heavy costs on society, and the costs are thought to outweigh the benefits.  Dog racing is arguably one such industry, as are cigarette vending machines, guns, and telemarketing as stomv mentions.

                But what, exactly, is the cost that nursing exact on society?  None, of course -- quite the contrary.  So your example is utterly nonsensical.

                • David - It would be less nonsensical if you would stop trying to second-guess instead of listen.

                  This is the point of Stomv's to which I was responding -

                  Jobs which require small skill sets and provide relatively low pay aren't as important to protect because there are many jobs like that out there, and the low training requirement makes it relatively easy for those former employees to find new work.

                    Stomv is gracious enough to mention that it IS difficult to find yourself unemployed via brave new regulation.

                  I was speaking about the disenfranchised WORKERS in those lower skilled industries.  Snooty assumptions about what is a 'valuable' job in society, coupled with tax subsidy of the right 'sort' of workers is what let to the 495 tech bust in the 1990's.

                  Biotech, high end jobs - hell, they don't need protecting by gubmint, because the MARKET seeks them out now. What we WILL run short of are tire rotators, fry cooks, and furniture strippers, who are leaving now in record numbers.  Perhaps they are tired of hearing how replaceable they are, how irrelevant to the better life of the real people.  Perhaps they can no longer tell their children in Mass. that a person can be respected if they do a hard day's work since the hard work they do is denigrated routinely.  It's why we have an explosion of H2B workers, as working class - and WORKING - kids from Mass. are moving to where they will not be looked down on.

                  • I didn't write that the jobs weren't important...

                    just that jobs which require small skill sets and provide low pay are easier to come by, and easier for which to be qualified.

                    I never wrote that they weren't important.  I never wrote that I didn't appreciate those who do those jobs.  I'd also point out that the shoe and textile factories may very well have had higher skill-set employees than much of the dog track.  I certainly don't look down on those jobs -- my parents both stock shelves for a living, and my older brother waits tables.  I've worked stocking shelves and as a fry cook and furniture stripper mover.

                    We won't run short of tire rotators or fry cooks.  Ever.  It's fairly easy to learn how to do those things, and a huge number of adults are capable of doing those things.  Sure, the salary may have to move higher to attract the labor, but that's a world different from a shortage of labor, which was my point.

          • On the Jobs aspect

            Because they aren't high-quality jobs, whatever exists instead of dog tracks is likely to be at least as good as the dog track jobs. Furthermore, isn't it at least concievable that we could replace these dog tracks, and their acres and acres of land, with developments that will lead to even more jobs, of all sorts of qualities? Or maybe replace them with entertainment venues more in touch with what people enjoy today?

  4. Done

    given the current proximity of mAssachusetts becoming the second Satanic Las Vegas opposition to gambling in any of it's forms would appear to be a most valid position.

  5. One Economic Plus

    Race tracks aren't exactly small bits of land; if we got rid of dog tracks, something else would take their place - and that something would be big. Whatever replaces them would likely supply a lot of jobs, even if they were no better than the jobs at race tracks. Who knows, maybe something worthwhile (as opposed to cruel dog tracks) could be made of that land?

    There's little more valuable than acres and acres of land that can easily be developed. I'm sure there are ways to maximize that land far more than with dog tracks.

    • $quot;something else would take their place$quot;

      Why, yes indeedy!

      The owners of Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere are also planning to bid for a casino license, which would put them in competition with Suffolk Downs for the license Patrick envisions for the Boston area. Officials at Wonderland are putting together an investment team. They said they would tear down the dog track and use their 36 acres to build a hotel, casino, and entertainment complex.

      Just FYI.

      • lol

        That's not what I had in mind.

        Though, I must say that there's infinite potential for the Wonderland Race Track. It's across the street from the blue line and, then, Revere Beach. That section of the beach, however, is slated for hundreds of millions of dollars of investment - with businesses, condos and parks all set to go in.

        The Race Track's potential is almost unlimited: putting a casino in there would be the easy and shortsighted thing to do (not to mention the fact that while it has several acres of land, I just don't see them fitting a Foxwoods-styled resort there, by any stretch of the imagination). There could be a concert venue there, a mall, a museum, something altogether unique... any number of things.

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