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Archive for November 3rd, 2008

Mass. hysteria: Greyhound racing vote nears

In addition to helping pick the next president, Massachusetts voters tomorrow will be deciding the future of greyhound racing in the state.

Voters will weigh in on a hotly debated ballot measure that, if approved, would make Massachusetts the eighth state to ban live greyhound racing. (Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington are the others.)

The Boston Globe reported Saturday, in a story that oozed objectivity, that conditions in which greyhounds live — a key factor in the argument to ban the sport — are, well, in the eye of the beholder …

“To one eye, the dogs look cheerful and comfortable. To another, the place might seem like a warehouse. One greyhound appears to stoop his head to fit in the cage; the others seem to have plenty of room to spare.

“The kennel’s owners welcomed a reporter, but no photographer, fearing how the cages might appear in pictures…”

I’m guessing that the cages might appear as they actually are — cameras being devices that record reality and all.

Supporters of the ban say greyhounds spent at least 20 hours a day in their cages.

The Globe article points out that “Like every assertion made in the debate over the ballot question, that contention is feverishly disputed by the other side. Trainers say their dogs get plenty of time outside, though they do have a hard time putting a number to it.”

Backers of the ballot measure believe greyhound racing constitutes animal abuse because of the industry’s excessive breeding practices, the cruel methods by which unwanted dogs are destroyed, the conditions in which many are forced to live and the number of injuries racing leads to.

The Humane Society of the United States believes no amount of reform could make the industry acceptable.

“The racing industry is inherently cruel. Greyhound racing is a form of gaming in which the amount of money a dog generates determines his or her expendability,” it says. “The answer for greyhounds is neither regulation nor adoption of “retired” dogs, but the elimination of the greyhound racing industry.”

Shelter dogs used for surgical training

Dogs from the Pocatello Animal Shelter in Idaho are being used in a “surgical skills” lab at Idaho State University, where participants meet once a year to perform tracheotomies, and practice inserting chest tubes and catheters.

When the doctors are done practicing, the animals are euthanized.

According to an Associated Press report, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has condemned the program, and asked that it switch to using mannequins instead of dogs.

Officials with the Idaho Committee on Trauma, which sponsors the yearly surgical skills lab at Idaho State University, say mannequins aren’t as effective for training as live animals. They say they’ve offered the training for 25 years without complaint.

“I’m disappointed this group would suggest we’re doing something illegal, because we’re not,” said ISU professor Alex Urfer, the school’s physical and occupational therapy program chairman. He said his program was accredited three weeks ago by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animals.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine told the Idaho State-Journal it plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month, alleging the ISU lab violates the federal Animal Welfare Act. He said said the ISU lab uses sedatives and shock collars to keep dogs docile.

According to the organization, based in Washington D.C., only a handful of 200 Advanced Trauma Life Support classes in the country still use live animals for training.

“We have been able to communicate information with other facilities to change their practices,” Dr. John J. Pippin said. “We’re hoping that the light of day will cause people to say, ‘Gosh, we should have stopped using this a long time ago.'”

Missing Maltese found 1,000 miles from home

How Max the Maltese got from Florida to Chicago is anybody’s guess, but he’ll be making the more than 1,000-mile trip home by air.

The six-pound dog wandered out of his yard in Brandon in the spring of this year, through a broken fence — and he hadn’t been seen since.

Last week, he turned up in a Chicago animal shelter, where he was indentified through a microchip his owners had implanted, according to the Chicago Tribune. Chicago’s Animal Care and Control called Gonzalez with the news.

“I didn’t think I was going to see him again,” Richard Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Gonzalez was unable to fly to Chicago to pick up the dog, so he called the non-profit Northcentral Maltese Rescue organization in Racine, Wisconsin, and a volunteer, Mary Palmer, agreed to pick Max up at the Wisconsin state line.

This weekend, she put Max on a plane from Milwaukee to Florida. Gonzalez will reimburse the organization for the approximately $170 cost of flying Max home.