Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Analytic Mood

I was in a somewhat analytic mood today and so I felt like having a look at some greyhound data assembled by Grey2k.   I find that Grey2K gathers quite a lot of data but seems to cherry pick the results without really looking it it as a whole.  Their purpose is to end greyhound racing and so they look at all the information that they get through that lens.  I want to look at things from the point of view of not expecting perfection but rather to determine if there is there indeed is a systemic problem in the industry. Grey2K's bias is that wrong doing, or failure is due to a system that is corrupt to the root and must be ended.  My bias is that racing is a system filled with checks and balances, but that is ultimately comprised of humans that have similar human failings to those found in any industry.

I found that Grey2K had requested the disciplinary records from the different tracks in the different states.  They assembled the data together into a searchable database.  I found it easy to look up individual records but could not get any summary (aggregate) data so I wrote a simple program to get the data and put it in my own database for analysis.  I decided to analyse 2 different tracks.  The ones I chose are the once my boys are from being Birmingham Alabama and Southland in West Memphis Arkansas.



Birmingham is a track that currently houses 423 active racers at 9 different kennels.  Estimating from track info they run anywhere from 5000 to 6000 races per year or 400 to 500 per month.  From 2002 to 2012 only 162 disciplinary actions in fines have been taken amassing $8920 in fines.  The majority of the actions taken from 2008 to 2012.  Grey2K manually classified all the actions into one of the following categories:  Abuse, Conduct, Death, Drugs, Injury, License, Miscellaneous, Neglect, Racing Rules, Vaccinations, and Weight/Weigh-Ins.

Abuse:

There have only been 2 disciplinary actions taken that Grey2K classified as abuse. Both were from the same kennel in 2007 where the offender was found keeping more than one greyhound in a single crate. A total fine of $175 was issued.

Conduct:

Conduct breaches have nothing specifically to do with the safety of greyhounds per say, but rather are disciplinary actions taken against individuals for their actions on or off the job. Grey2K classifies conduct as follows. "However, the category of “conduct” is used for a human that tested positive for drugs (or engaged in other negative behaviors)."  At Birmingham their were 22 conduct violations with one of the following reasons.  Only one had any relationship to humans testing positive for illegal drugs:
  • failed to supervise leadouts
  • disorderly conduct
  • human drug positive-marijuana
  • conduct detrimental to racing
  • possession of gum on grounds
  • possession of tobacco on grounds
  • being in restricted area
  • possession of beer in kennel compound
  • entered restricted area
  • not handling their business in a proper manner
  • possession of gum during weigh in
  • possession of a cigar during weigh in
  • possession of alcohol during kennel inspection
  • possession of food in restricted area
  • having a cigar in the paddock at weigh in
  • possession of alcoholic beverages in kennel compound
  • possession of a soda container while entering..

Drugs:

There were 13 disciplinary actions taken for the reason Grey2K classifies as drugs.  I found the Arkansas racing rules online and while they are not Alabama's, based on the fines that were issued I think they line up with the way Alabama classifies the violations.

  • There were 3 cases where a syringe was found. Possession of a syringe results in a $25 fine.
  • There were 9 cases of greyhounds testing positive for carprofen (Rimadyl) or methocarbomol (Robaxin).  Class 4 drugs includes therapeutic medications which should have less potential to alter performance than those in Class 3.  Each of these violations resulted in a $50 fine.
  • There was 1 serious case of doping with Benzoylecqonie ( a metabolite of cocaine ) that got quite a bit of attention in 2009.  The offender was fined $800 and given a 60 day suspension.  I do not see him on the roster of kennels at the Birmingham track.  This one violation is hardly an indication of a systemic problem as Grey2K believes

Weight/Weigh ins:

Like Wrestlers, greyhounds have target weights that the trainer decides they will compete at. If at weigh in time they fail to meet the weight, the trainer is fined.  A greyhound being underweight or overweight in this classification does not mean the greyhound is gaunt or obese.  It is simply a record of greyhounds that failed to meet the target weight. Of the 162 disciplinary actions 90 of them are for the reason of weight/weigh ins.


Racing Rules:

Racing rules violations are really violations of procedural issues.  There were 24 racing rule violations.
Examples are: failed to perform preliminary card check resulting in two greyhounds racing with the wrong blankets, failed to operate lure properly, failure to remove collar from dog in race, failure to perform duties of patrol judge, and failure to perform duties of a starter.

Vaccinations:

There was one fine imposed because a vaccination was found not to be current.

License:

There were 2 cases of penalties under the category of License.  One was a failure to obtain a permit/license and the second just specified that the license was suspended with no reason given.

Misc:

Examples of the 8 Misc violations are: Unauthorized to sign in visitors into a kennel, Failure to comply with a judges order, Failure to appear, Failure to pay fine on time, Violating Kennel Overflow Policy
failure to disclose criminal history and racing history on license application.


Alabama (Birmingham): Incidents
2002 2003 2004 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
drugs 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 6 5 13
license 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2
weight/weigh ins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 22 42 26 90
abuse 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
racing rules 0 2 0 0 0 0 4 5 8 5 24
conduct 1 0 3 2 0 0 0 9 5 2 22
vaccinations 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1
misc 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 5 1 0 8
Total 1 2 3 4 2 1 5 42 63 39 162


Alabama (Birmingham): Fines
2002 2003 2004 2005 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Total
drugs 0 0 0 0 0 0 800 25 275 200 1300
license 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25 25
weight/weigh ins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 610 1265 640 2515
abuse 0 0 0 0 175 0 0 0 0 0 175
racing rules 0 400 0 0 0 0 225 250 225 200 1300
conduct 500 0 1350 1000 0 0 0 225 205 100 3380
vaccinations 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 25 0 25
misc 0 0 0 0 0 75 0 75 50 0 200
Total 500 400 1350 1000 175 75 1025 1185 2045 1165 8920

I will be briefer with Arkansa data:
Southland Park has one of the largest kennel compounds in the nation.  It's twenty-five buildings can hold up to 1,950 greyhounds at  any given time. It conducts an average of 6,000 races over the course of a year.  

Grey2K had data from Arkansa from 2010 to 2013 resulting in 63 disciplinary actions.
  • The drug violation was for a class 4, penalty B therapeutic drug.
  • The abuse violation was from the racing secretary observing the offender mistreating a greyhound.  It resulted in a 15 day suspension, 1 year probation and a $200 fine.
  • The neglect violation resulted from 2 greyhound being left in their turnout pen after completion of morning work.  A $300 fine was imposed.
  • Misc violations were from late payment for previous violations and failure to secure workers compensation.
  • The license violations were failure to obtain licenses on time.
  • Conduct violations included: intoxication,marijuana,stealing a wallet,disruptive on track grounds,failure to follow procedure and report the death of a greyhound, using profane language and misleading racing officials during an investigation.  
Arkansas: Incidents
2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
drugs 0 1 0 0 1
license 0 0 4 0 4
weight/weigh ins 3 14 16 0 33
abuse 0 1 0 0 1
racing rules 0 0 0 2 2
conduct 0 9 8 0 17
misc 0 2 0 1 3
neglect 0 1 0 0 1
injury 0 0 1 0 1
Total 3 28 29 3 63

Arkansas: Fines
2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
drugs 0 50 0 0 50
license 0 0 150 0 150
weight/weigh ins 200 1175 1325 0 2700
abuse 0 200 0 0 200
racing rules 0 0 0 400 400
conduct 0 600 1402 0 2002
misc 0 50 0 600 650
neglect 0 300 0 0 300
injury 0 0 0 0 0
Total 200 2375 2877 1000 6452
Looking at this data, I think that the racing industry is designed to carefully monitor how racing is conducted. It takes especially seriously anything that could effect the outcome of a race, especially performance enhancing drugs.  It also demonstrates the importance of how individuals conduct themselves.  A disciplinary system that issued no violations would be an indication that it is completely ineffective.  This report shows how the system responded to situations from the relatively minor violations to the serious ones and is an indication of what kind of environment it is trying to foster. Given the number of dogs, races and kennels the number of disciplinary actions does not seem condemning.

5 comments:

houndstooth said...

I'll be honest, I don't believe anything Grey2K says. For me, it's not even about whether you're for or against Greyhound racing, it's about whether a group is in it for the dogs (versus just paying themselves) and whether they can be honest with people. If they told me the sky was blue, I'd walk outside and check for myself. I honestly don't understand why more people don't see through them.

jcp said...

I agree houndstooth. There are a lot of different legitimate opinions out there on the subject of racing. I just encourage people to have an honest look at what the actual information is telling us and let the chips fall where they may.

galgogrrl said...

Be as it may, hounds still get fatally injured when on the tracks, especially in the bends. I understand that some tracks have strict monitoring systems which in itself is a good thing however for this article just two tracks have been compared. Another omission is the background of the dogs before they hit the racing tracks, the overbreeding to single out dogs with the most potential, the discoveries of mass graves of discarded greyhounds and the routine killing of perfectly healthy dogs just because they don't perform on top anymore. I would have less a problem with racing dogs if the money factor would be left out of the equation. Seeing a hound race in full speed is a wonderful sight, their power and grace is breathtaking and I don't agree with organisations whitewashing the breed into couch potatoes even refusing to sell any card or sticker of a running hound. However no matter how much monitoring is applied, at the end of the day the racing is at the expense of the animals. I have seen enough ex racers with severe problems in their joints, as well as behavioural issues, caused by extensive racing. I think these 'side effects' of the racing industry cannot and should not be underestimated. People enrich themselves over the dog's backs, fact. And ultimately it's the dogs who pay the highest price.

Jennifer Ng said...

Dogs also get fatally injured running in the yard and participating in lure coursing and amateur racing events. When we actually look at the statistics, the frequency of injuries during greyhound racing is very low, and fatalities on the track are extremely rare.

There is also no "overbreeding to single out dogs with the most potential". The number of greyhounds bred every year has been decreasing and has stayed proportional to the number of available spots for racers at the track. The majority of puppies are raised, trained, and make it to the track at least for schooling and maiden races. Today, the "routine killing of perfectly healthy" greyhounds is rare, and it is estimated that over 90% of retired racers are adopted out to homes. Compare that to the average southeastern U.S. animal shelter where only about 20% are adopted, and I think the greyhound community is doing quite well and will likely reach 100% placement of adoptable dogs in the near future. I'm not aware of any 'mass graves' being discovered recently, and even the ones found in the past were the result of the rare 'bad apple' in the industry. Does the discovery of hoarders and puppy mills mean that pet ownership itself is a bad thing?

From what I've seen working with a fairly high-volume adoption group, it's actually not common for ex-racing greyhounds to have "severe problems in their joints". The few that do usually had fractures involving a joint, and these account for a very small percentage of the dogs retiring. Greyhounds don't tend to get hip dysplasia or even much age-related arthritis compared to other large purebred dogs. I also haven't seen any "behavioral issues, caused by extensive racing". Most of the greyhounds with behavioral issues are genetically shy, with a smaller number who probably didn't receive enough handling or socialization as puppies. These issues have nothing to do with racing, and is seen in other breeds too. The majority of retired racers are very well socialized, and are friendly, outgoing dogs. They may need some work to get used to things they aren't familiar with, like doing stairs and slippery floors, but most catch on quickly. Having seen undersocialized and abused shelter dogs in comparison, most greyhounds are very adaptable and adjust remarkably well to situations which are completely new to them.

As to the comment that "people enrich themselves over the dog's backs" I'm not sure who you're referring to. The majority of people who actually care for these greyhounds on a day-to-day basis at the track are not getting rich from what they do. I've met trainers and assistants who work in racing kennels at the track, as well as a couple racing greyhound breeders. All the people in the industry that I've met care very deeply about their dogs and the greyhound breed. They often make decisions and sacrifices for the good of the dog, even if they may not be the best business decisions and end up costing them money.

Racing greyhounds exist today as a relatively healthy population of well-socialized purebred dogs *because of* the racing industry. And the money is part of the infrastructure that allows this system to continue. If greyhound racing is eliminated, the greyhounds that so many of us know and love will also disappear.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Excellent post!