The Michael Vick story has pushed illegal dog-fighting to the top of America’s news and social media agenda. It’s also generated numerous articles, columns and blog posts arguing that greyhound racing deserves the same condemnation.
That may explain why the American Greyhound Track Operators Association (AGTOA) announced its annual impact economic impact study on August 23 — several months before it usually does. AGTOA released its 2004 numbers in November 2005, and the 2005 economic impact data wasn’t released until last December.
AGTOA says that its greyhound race tracks — some that also offer other forms of betting — employed 15,000 people and paid almost $272 million in taxes last year. This is in addition to how the “approximately 800 greyhound-breeding farms in 31 states also contribute to local economies through taxes and their operations.”
The industry’s rush to get out some positive news out days after Vick announced he would plea guilty may also explain why AGTOA is repeating itself. Both the 2007 and 2006 news releases include this carefully worded quote:
"While this economic contribution to the states where we do business is substantial, our sport could not exist were it not for our greyhound athletes," said Richard Winning, president of AGTOA. "We have a special responsibility to ensure greyhounds are well cared for from the time they are born until they retire."
The release goes on to list many positive initiatives including medical education, research programs and inspections of breeding farms to ensure high standards.
Still, the industry creates comparison — not distance — by referring to greyhounds as almost human-like participants in their sport. Dogs bred solely to race around a track for the benefit of gamblers are no more “athletes” than deer in the woods are “hunting partners.” The greyhound racing industry’s critics — and there are millions — don’t buy it, either. And many of them will argue that it’s this kind of self-rationalizing rhetoric that makes some people justify the idea of raising dogs to be “extreme athletes” in the ring.
That I would bet on.
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