As Kansas continues to look for any opportunity to add to the state’s coffers, some legislators are likely to once again raise the ugly specter of dog racing as a possible revenue stream. By lowering the statutory tax rate on slot machines at racetracks, these individuals will say profits could then be used to revitalize dog racing and thus create jobs.
It sounds tempting until one does a little research. Dog racing subsidies have never worked in any state. Ever.
Instead, racetrack stands remain empty while states (Iowa and West Virginia, for example) are left holding the bag.
Two casinos told The Des Moines Register in 2014 that they were losing a total of $14 million annually by subsidizing greyhound racing, as they were required to by law. West Virginia saw attendance levels drop as much as 99 percent. The state of Florida, which still operates tracks, spends more money regulating the industry than it makes from its cut of track revenue.
One fact is assured if Kansas legislators bring back dog racing, thousands of dogs will suffer. In Kansas, those who breed racing greyhounds are not required to follow the same standards governing breeding, housing, feeding, watering, exercise and veterinary care as breeders of other dogs.
So, with the promise of making a buck or two, thousands of dogs would be bred at greyhound puppy mills across Kansas under horrific conditions, and then stacked in crates and transported by truck to a racetrack where they would live a dismal life muzzled and kenneled. They would be given substandard food and go without veterinary attention because the expense is prohibitory. Once every four days, they would be put on a racetrack where they will literally run for their lives.
Back in 2008, during the last six months of dog racing in Kansas before the tracks closed, 80 dogs suffered broken legs and backs, among other injuries that included orthopedic fractures, kidney damage and other musculoskeletal and internal organ failures. Sick, injured, old, and slow dogs were destroyed.
A former Kansas trainer and kennel owner said to Pitch Weekly: “Over the 15 years I was in the business, I probably killed about 1,500 dogs. I usually shot them in the head. They [the owners] don’t want to pay the $20 vet charge to euthanize a greyhound. It’s cheaper to shoot them.”
Like any Kansan, I want to see the state recover financially in order to be able to fund its award-winning public schools and continue to improve its infrastructure. However, bringing greyhound racing back is not the answer.
Kelly Kultala is executive director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund of Kansas and PAC, based in Leawood.