Statewide Ballot Question 3: Dog Racing

As I mentioned in a previous post, in these weeks leading up to the election, I’ll be covering what will arguably be the most important (if not the most tangible) questions before Massachusetts residents on November 4th: the three statewide ballot questions.

Statewide Ballot Question 3: Dog Racing

The proposed law would prohibit dog racing in Massachusetts where betting/wagering occurs after Jan. 1, 2010. The civil penalty for dog racing would be $20,000 at a minimum.

Summary

This proposed law would prohibit any dog racing or racing meeting in Massachusetts where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs occurs.

The State Racing Commission would be prohibited from accepting or approving any application or request for racing dates for dog racing.

Any person violating the proposed law could be required to pay a civil penalty of not less than $20,000 to the Commission. The penalty would be used for the Commission’s administrative purposes, subject to appropriation by the state Legislature. All existing parts of the chapter of the state’s General Laws concerning dog and horse racing meetings would be interpreted as if they did not refer to dogs.

These changes would take effect January 1, 2010. The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

A YES VOTE would prohibit dog races on which betting or wagering occurs, effective January 1, 2010.

A NO VOTE would make no change in the laws governing dog racing.

Source: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/elepip08/pip083.htm

Here are the arguments on both sides:

In Favor

Those in favor of prohibiting dog racing in which betting occurs argue that dog racing is “cruel and inhumane.” I don’t know that voters should be so concerned with the “inhumane” aspect of this — I don’t believe the ballot question is suggesting we begin treating dogs like people — but I think the cruelty element is definitely present.

Caging: The cages they keep the dogs in are too small by some peoples’ (i.e., the Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center) standards.

The runs used for similarly sized dogs at the MSPCA Boston Animal Care and Adoption Center are approximately five times larger than the cages used at local racetracks.

Source: http://www.protectdogs.org/confinement.php

Injuries/Fatalities: Dogs, like race cars, crash.

According to state records more than 800 racing greyhounds have been injured since 2002, including dogs who suffered broken legs, paralysis, head trauma and even death from cardiac arrest. A greyhound is injured every three to four days in Massachusetts.

Source: http://www.protectdogs.org/pdf/factsheet.pdf

“Documented Cruelty” – ProtectDogs.org

More arguments here.  There is also greyhound rescue, as well as some adoption agencies in Massachusetts.  And if dog racing disgusts you, and you abhor exploitive, cruel treatment of animals, I might also suggest this website.

Not in Favor

Here is their decree in its entirety:

Parimutuel dog racing has taken place in Massachusetts for over 70 years, now only at Wonderland dog track in Revere, and Raynham/Taunton in Raynham. The greyhounds are owned by caring dog owners, not tracks. There is no mistreatment of the dogs as claimed by animal activists. The State Racing Commission fully regulates the industry, has veterinarians on duty at each track, and maintains numerous programs for the welfare of the dogs during their racing careers, and for adoption when their careers are over. About 1,000 people will lose badly needed jobs if the proposal is enacted. The Commonwealth, Revere and Raynham will lose badly needed revenue. From 2000 to 2007, these tracks paid over $40 million to the Commonwealth in commissions and fees, as well as other taxes related to their racing activities. Finally enactment will likely subject the Commonwealth to suits by the tracks for taking their property.

Source: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/ele08/ballot_questions_08/quest_3.htm

This is what I’ve gleaned:

  1. We’ve been doing this for like a wicked long time.  It can’t be bad, because we don’t do bad things for a wicked long time.
  2. “The greyhounds are owned by caring dog owners [them], not tracks [us].”  This might be my favorite argument, because they are essentially arguing that the reason dog racing is so perfectly harmless is because they, the tracks, don’t own the dogs — caring dog owners own the dogs.  I guess this means that the implicitly uncaring tracks that feed, shelter, and oversee the health of the animals with on-staff veterinarians have just a marginal effect on the well-being of the dogs.
  3. Fine — we treat the dogs like not so well, but if you vote “yes” on question 3, about 1,000 people will lose their jobs!  In these difficult economic times, we can’t afford not to race dogs.
  4. “The Commonwealth, Revere and Raynham will lose badly needed revenue.”  Wait, Revere makes revenue?
  5. “Finally enactment will likely subject the Commonwealth to suits by the tracks for taking their property.”  Okay.  So we don’t really have an argument.  Just know that if the people democratically decide to pass this bill, we’re going to sue the shirts off their backs.  Yes?

The worst part about the defense is that they don’t even present their strongest, and perhaps only, argument: dogs are not humans, and by privileging them, you are restricting the freedom of rational human beings who choose to attend racing events.

2 Comments so far

  1. Jess (jesscola) on October 27th, 2008 @ 12:59 am

    Okay so, regardless of whether or not it’s inhumane, it should be legal either way because dogs are animals, not humans — rational humans who should have the freedom to enjoy and profit from the suffering of these dogs, because…why, exactly? Because they feel like it, seriously? By that logic, dog fighting should probably be legal, too. We wouldn’t want to privilege dogs by not allowing them to be forced into a dangerous and harmful situation for human entertainment, right? Just saying.


  2. Jess (jesscola) on October 27th, 2008 @ 1:13 am

    p.s. This doesn’t change the fact that the argument in question is ridiculous, but as for the curtness of the comment, my family rescued a retired racing greyhound and she was both emotionally and physically scarred from her time at the track, so the topic hits a nerve. Dogs deserve to live better lives than that.



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