|Greyhound Protection League
STATE LOOKS AT DOG TRACK IN BONITA AFTER TWO INJURIES
Nov 04, 2003 - Naples Daily News
By JANINE A. ZEITLIN, firstname.lastname@example.org
State officials are investigating the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track after eyewitnesses said a dog with its leg torn off and another, whose leg was broken, Saturday went untreated because there was no veterinarian on duty.
Law requires the track to employ a veterinarian to monitor dogs before and during the races.
"It just ran into the rail and just tore his leg at about his elbow," said James Blanchard, 46, a kennel operator who saw the two dogs fall. "Animals get hurt. There's no doubt about that, but a dog should not have to lay there without medical attention. ... I know it was not right and we all feel that way."
The Greyhound Protection League, a national nonprofit organization, lodged a formal complaint Saturday with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Race footage shows the greyhound hit the rail, somersault several times and get traipsed over by the other dogs. The dog was likely sprinting more than 30 mph, greyhound owners say.
Blanchard heads two trade associations representing kennel operators, greyhound trainers and owners. Plinko Drive, a 3-year-old female greyhound, was removed from the track and taken to a shed where she was bleeding but alive, he said.
"It stayed alive until the vet came," he said.
State officials said the investigation likely would consume weeks and would not release state reports from Saturday's race -- where two state officials were present -- citing the pending inquiry.
"We're looking into it," said Meg Shannon, communications director for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. "We're going to try to get it completed as soon as possible."
In the past three years, Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track has had eight closed complaints, said Shannon, noting some likely ended in fines. She couldn't expound on details of the complaints.
The Greyhound Protection League's complaint alleges both Plinko Drive and Solitary Hattie, a 3-year-old female that broke its leg in the race right after Plinko Drive's spill, suffered more than an hour before a veterinarian arrived.
"One of our major concerns is the terrible suffering these dogs may have endured," said Susan Netboy, president of the Greyhound Protection League based in California. "Racing is a dangerous business."
Both dog owners said they gave the green light for the dogs to be euthanized.
"We understand things happen. It's just kind of sad when it does," said Tony Mills, Plinko Drive's owner from his Kansas home.
In his 30 years as a trainer, he's seen a dog run into the rail a few times.
"It's all metal, and when that happens, they get cut up pretty bad. It's a freakish deal. She was a sweetie. It was quite a shock."
Mills had already chosen a family to adopt it after retirement. If a veterinarian weren't present, Mills said, he'd be concerned "because there's supposed to be one there, there's supposed to be one at all racetracks."
Jack Sherck, Solitary Hattie's owner from Kansas, said track officials called him about his dog's compound fracture before putting her down.
"It sounds like it was pretty bad," he said. "My assumption was that she was humanely disposed of."
Sherck said he wouldn't be upset if a veterinarian wasn't immediately there. He said the greyhound racing industry is under unfair scrutiny.
"The fact that I was notified on spot tells me that this was handled right," he said. "If they're injured, you'd bundle them up. It's always aggravating for us. It just seems that we become the fall guy on every little mishap because they'd love to shut us down," he said of greyhound protection agencies.
Repeated efforts to reach Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track officials Saturday and Monday were unsuccessful. The veterinarian who individuals close to the tragedy said euthanized the greyhounds Saturday could not be reached for comment.
Mike Labun, president of the Florida Greyhound Association, said such events give an undeserved bad rap to the racing industry and that not having a veterinarian present is inexcusable.
"When something like this happens, it gives the industry a black eye. No one wants to see the dog suffer. No one should have to," he said. "To not have a veterinarian, that's inhumane treatment as far as I'm concerned. There's no such things as excuses of not having one."
Violating state racing laws can carry fines up to $5,000 per violation and cause a track's license to be revoked, state officials said. An October report from an office of the Florida Legislature found that the division under the Department of Business and Professional Regulation doesn't generate enough money to support proper regulation.
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