Acts of Impact

How 'GREY2K USA Worldwide' Is Ending The Cruelty of Greyhound Racing

August 11, 2022 Nicholas Hill Season 1 Episode 20
How 'GREY2K USA Worldwide' Is Ending The Cruelty of Greyhound Racing
Acts of Impact
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Acts of Impact
How 'GREY2K USA Worldwide' Is Ending The Cruelty of Greyhound Racing
Aug 11, 2022 Season 1 Episode 20
Nicholas Hill

Today we interview Christine Dorchak, Co-founder and General Counsel for GREY2K USA Worldwide, about their work fighting the cruelty of dog racing. We’ll talk about the dangers of racing for these Greyhounds, its rise and ongoing downfall in the U.S., and how GREY2K closed the worst dog track in the world.

To support GREY2K USA Worldwide and discover more ways to help, visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Christine and the GREY2K USA Worldwide team. Music by Alex Grohls.

Show Notes Transcript

Today we interview Christine Dorchak, Co-founder and General Counsel for GREY2K USA Worldwide, about their work fighting the cruelty of dog racing. We’ll talk about the dangers of racing for these Greyhounds, its rise and ongoing downfall in the U.S., and how GREY2K closed the worst dog track in the world.

To support GREY2K USA Worldwide and discover more ways to help, visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Christine and the GREY2K USA Worldwide team. Music by Alex Grohls.

Nicholas Hill  0:00  
You're listening to acts of impact the show where we interview organizations and individuals to learn about the positive contributions they're making around us. On today's show, we interview with GREY2K USA Worldwide, the largest Greyhound protection organization in the world about their work fighting the cruelty of dog racing. We'll talk about the dangers of racing for these greyhounds. Its rise and ongoing downfall in the US, and howGrey2K closed the worst dog track in the world. Our guest today deserves a round of a-paws. Let's get started.

Nicholas Hill  0:50  
Hello, and welcome to acts of impact. I'm your host, Nicholas Hill. And we're here with today's guest, Christine Dorchak. Christine is President co-founder and general counsel for GREY2K USA Worldwide, the largest Greyhound protection organization in the world. Christine, thanks so much for joining us.

Christine Dorchak  1:11  
Thank you so much for having me. What an honor.

Nicholas Hill  1:14  
Yeah, I'm so happy to have you. And it's such an important topic, your organization is working to end the cruelty of dog racing. Why is greyhound racing so dangerous and detrimental to the animals that are forced to participate?

Christine Dorchak  1:31  
Well, you know, years ago, some of us learned what was happening to dogs in our own backyard. Here in Massachusetts, there were two dog tracks, with over 2000 greyhounds, and they live their lives inside stacked metal cages, they spent 20 to 23 hours a day in these cages, they were taken out two or three times a month to race. And when they raised they face the risk of serious injury. A dog was injured every three days in Massachusetts, according to state records, and dogs died, they adopt broken leg a dog is worthless. So the cost benefit analysis of the industry meant that well if it was more expensive to keep a dog alive, and maybe he'll he'll recover it on can make some money later, kill him. So dogs were being destroyed. healthy dogs. If you and I had a dog who broke his leg, the first thing we do is bring him to the hospital. No get him fixed up. That wasn't how it worked in the industry. And because it's a commercial industry, these dogs are nothing but components of the industry. Just like parts, you know, good parts, bad parts. And unfortunately, the day always comes in dog racing, when the dog loses. One way or the other. Sometimes, dog racing, we learned, actually, from the very beginning was cruel. Greyhounds were being born on Greyhound farms breeding farms, and only some of them ever got off those farms. So puppies were being killed from the very beginning. So there was this underbelly of cruelty. So we started with this knowledge. And we said, Wait a minute, why is this happening? How could it be happening? Who invented this industry? And why is it in our state? It was all about Massachusetts in the two dog tracks, right in a park in Wonderland. And we just said, Well, somebody has to do something. So we're going to do it. We knew nothing about politics. We knew nothing about how to bring a bill through the legislature. Nothing. And in fact, our bill wasn't even heard at the State House on Beacon Hill, we were completely ignored. So we were fortunate enough. One day, somebody drove by our protest outside Wonderland, which we had every week. Rain, snow sun, we were out in a hurricane once we never gave up. Somebody drove by and he said, What are your people doing? And we said, we're we're working to end dog racing. And he said, No, you're not. Let's get serious. Meet me in my office next week. So we said okay, so we ended up having a meeting. And the recommendation was that we go to the ballot, and that's what we did. We went to the ballot in the year 2000. And we fought very hard for our cause. But we were outspent five to one by the track owners and we lost. But it was so close. It was the closest election in state history. It was 5149 on the ballot. So I said to everyone, well, wait a minute. We almost won. We could have won. Let's keep fighting. So most people said Christine, you're all wet. We lost a moving on. But three of us stood up and we formed educate USA because we realized that the problem was not limited to Massachusetts that dog racing was an interstate business and ants were being born in one state race and and other than moved to another to race again, and many of them that they were good racers and they were female would then be used for breeding. So it was this constant cycle, there were dogs that were simply being sold off or just given away to experimentation labs, it was it was a nightmare for these dogs from start to finish. So we said we have to take on the entire industry. And at that time, we considered a national problem. And that's why we originally formed his great UK, USA.

Nicholas Hill  5:31  
And I love the enthusiasm towards instead of saying, Oh, well, we lost by such a close margin, we say, Oh, we almost won.

Christine Dorchak  5:42  
It was a miracle that we were so close on the ballot and lift the vote have been taken one day before one day after we might have won. But ironically, that might have been a good thing that we lost. Because if we had one, we all would have moved on with our lives. And, you know, we wouldn't say great accomplishment. And you know, no, now you know, me, I was thinking about becoming an international correspondent, I wanted to be on CNN and I have I have a degree in journalism. So that was my idea, before I found out about what was happening to greyhounds, and then the entire course of my life changed. And that's really important to me to say that I didn't know anything about greyhound racing. But when I found out, I said, somebody's got to do something about this. And I didn't know much. But I decided I would learn. And we made lots of mistakes along the way. But we learned from the mistakes. And there's an impression that we are a large organization of some believe we're not, we are still a group. Now we have 500 people in a one room office. And we're taking on an entire international industry. And we're doing it in a very low to the ground way we we find out what's happening to greyhounds through state records, and industry materials. So the dogs speak for themselves. And then we devise a campaign and a strategy, and then we move forward. So sometimes we're going to work the legislature, sometimes we're going to go to the ballot, we've passed several ballot questions, most notably the 2018 ban on dog racing in Florida. But if there's an easier approach, that's what we take. So we negotiated with track owners in Arkansas, for instance. And those track owners decided that, you know, dog racing has had its day, we are going to phase out dog racing voluntarily. And in fact, dog racing will end in December, as a result of these negotiations. So that'll be another state where dog racing has ended. But it wasn't necessary to bring legislation or a valid question, or we just sat down and talked.

Nicholas Hill  7:59  
And something that you just mentioned, that you when you started, you didn't, you know, didn't know a lot about the history of dog racing and kind of where it came in. It was a group of people with a mission, but you do know quite a bit now. And in fact, before when you and I spoke, you told me a little bit about the history of how dog racing came to be in the United States. And I'm wondering if you could just kind of tell our listeners a little about that. I found it very interesting.

Christine Dorchak  8:29  
Well, um, you know, greyhound racing is a depression era invention, states were looking for new forms of revenue. And at the same at the same time, a gentleman in California invented something called the mechanical war. And it was a way to harness the speed of dogs for gambling purposes, and take out what was thought to be the worst part of dog racing, which was the use of live animals. Initially, greyhounds were just allowed to chase and kill, you know, bait animals. And unfortunately, we've discovered that that history is not so much history. It's still happening today. It's a result of a new investigation we've had. But this was the result of people saying, well, we're not too crazy about that. Tearing live animals apart thing. So the live lore aspect was a real black mark on the industry. And that's why this adventure said, Well, I have no idea. This is going to be an artificial lore is going to go around in an oval. People can watch the dogs race, and we can bet on them. So that that's how dog racing was invented in California in 1919. Ironically, California refused to legalize dog racing as a form of gambling, it's something that has to be authorised in order to be legal. So in any case, it was necessary for the proponents of dog racing to go state by state and they made their case over and over again. We've got this new invention You'll get tax revenue, and it'll be wonderful. There was no live, you know, animal being torn apart, let us in and state after state said no, no, no, we don't watch that here. But then in 1931 lawmakers in Florida were convinced that they should, in fact, legalized dog racing. That was in 1931. And they were convinced by mobsters dog racing was, you know, something that mobsters like you think? Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, Al Capone. He operated all the illegal Chicago dog racing that was happening for a time. So it started with, you know, the people that we know from history being mobsters and organized crime members, and they were the ones who were trying to get dog racing legalized across the country. So finally, Florida, agreed. And in fact, lawmakers overrode the governor's veto. The governor didn't want dog racing, but lawmakers had been convinced leave it to your imagination to understand how they might have been convinced to leave to override the veto. And that's how dog racing started in the United States.

Nicholas Hill  11:12  
Some people might say like, oh, well, couldn't we just put some regulations in place to make this a safer activity for the dogs? What would be your response to that?

Christine Dorchak  11:22  
Well, actually, that's been one of our strategies. The first thing we do is not go into a particular jurisdiction and say band dog racing. We tried to pass protections for the dogs. But unfortunately, the industry has been resistant to any change whatsoever. So for instance, one of the first things we did back in the day in 2001, after we lost on the ballot in Massachusetts, as we tried to pass legislation that would have prohibited dog racing on days of extreme heat and cold tracks fought it tooth and nail, they wouldn't hear of it. They didn't want to be told when they could raise dogs, so dogs could be raised to the blizzard dogs could be raised in a heatwave, as as we're having now, no holds barred these simple things that they could have agreed to actually would have preserved their industry longer, I think. But they didn't see the wisdom in that and they fought us every step of the way, wasn't the the other thing that was really important in that initial 2001 year was that we pass into law, a requirement that the records of the dog tracks become public documents so that people could make requests and see for themselves what was happening to greyhounds. These are the records that we didn't have when we first went to the ballot. So now we were organized, I had just started law school. And I became convinced that we had to treat each case each campaign rather like a lawsuit, we had to assemble our facts, make the most persuasive argument that we could, and hopefully, find justice for the dogs our case. And our campaign had to be a matter of bringing evidence, and we didn't have the evidence we needed in Massachusetts originally. So we learned that's what we need, the dogs have to speak for themselves. So that's how I can speak knowingly about a dog being injured every three days. That's not my number. That was the state's number. Equally, when we enter dog racing here in Massachusetts, I can also tell you that over 1000, greyhounds went to adoption. So by the time dog racing, did wind down because we had a 14 month phase out of the ballot question. There was plenty of time to be adopting out the dogs. And it was just, it was just a win win win. Because the taxpayers were subsidizing the tracks. The dogs were being injured and dying. And it was it was just a drain on the reputation of Massachusetts as well. So it was just a really good thing. And that's why voters chose overwhelmingly in 2008, to ban dog racing.

Nicholas Hill  13:59  
I think that's a no brainer for a lot of people to see that data and say, Well, okay, I didn't know that was going on.

Christine Dorchak  14:06  
There's a real paper trail here. You could use that information to educate people about what's happening to dogs. So it's not a matter of believing me or you or somebody else that dog racing is bad news. Just look at the record at the records and see the photos of the dogs and understand that a broken leg was a death sentence for Greyhound.

Nicholas Hill  14:27  
And where does this sit currently how many states had illegal dog racing when you started and where does that sit now? What success have you seen?

Christine Dorchak  14:38  
So when we first started in 2001 as GREY2K USA. There were nearly 50 tracks in 15 states. As of the end of this year, there will be two tracks in one state. So we decided to go on state by state by state to close down dog tracks and pass a prohibition on dog race. Sing. And there have been other advocates as well working in their own states. For instance, in Pennsylvania, there was a citizens group there that came after ours. And that group also prohibited simulcast wagering, which is a very important aspect of what we what we do now as a rule at that the early days, we were concerned with live racing. But simulcast wagering is one possibility to bet on dog races taking place elsewhere. So that that means that the dog race taking place in West Virginia can be propped up by somebody in Connecticut, who's betting on the race. So more money going into dog racing in West Virginia as a result. So it's all about the money in this industry. So we've been very successful. And to the extent that dog racing is now illegal in 42 states, and we're coming so close now, we are working on multiple levels. So we have a continuing campaign in West Virginia, to close down the two tracks there. And we've also brought the first federal bill in American history to make dog racing illegal nationwide. So that a state like Kansas, for instance, for dog racing ended about a decade or so ago, under pressure from advocates like us, that those tracks those tracks close, but dog racing is still legal. So somebody could in fact, say well, I want to bring back dog racing. So we want to close the book on dog racing. You know, you talked about this thing historical, we want to close the book and put dog racing in the past.

Nicholas Hill  16:39  
Something that I do want to dive into is a really important story that you and I have talked about, about a greyhound named Brooklyn. And I know that Brooklyn and unfortunately passed away very recently in June of this year, but I also know that Brooklyn inspired the successful international campaign to close down the worst dog track in the world. And I was wondering if maybe you could tell us Brooklyn's story.

Christine Dorchak  17:11  
Oh, thank you so much as Brooklyn was the inspiration for our campaign to close down the only illegal dog track in China. He was a beautiful white and brown spotted dog. Because Fern was so soft like a rabbit. And he had the biggest, most gentle eyes. And what happened was, I learned about this track in the newspaper. I read a story in the South China Morning Post. And I was astounded because I was beginning to learn more and more about dog racing. But I did not know of this terrible track in Macau, which is a peninsula off the Chinese mainland, where every dog died, there was no adoption program whatsoever. 30 dogs were shipped in from Australia each month 30 killed to make room for those dogs. Dogs were being injured just like they were in American tracks. And of course, they would certainly be killed right away. That was they weren't going to keep a broken leg, a dog or a dog with any kind of an injury because it was so easy just to bring in a new dog in the regular cycle. So we we learned about this track. And you have to understand, we're in a one room basement office in Somerville, Massachusetts. And I read this story. And I looked up I said, Holy cow. We've got to shut this place down. And my partner Carrie said, oh, yeah, Christine, we're going to do that from a one room based office in Massachusetts. I said, Yes, we are. So our board member Charmaine agreed to fly over and investigate the track. And she took a photo of this stunning dog. And all we could see on his collar, what were the words, l y n. And we set out to figure out who that dog was. And his name was Brooklyn. And we developed a whole campaign around his image, the rescue Brooklyn campaign, and people from around the world joined us in demanding his release from the track. And it was a fantastic, wonderful effort. And I realized that we could bring the world together on this issue. And he was the face of freedom for the dogs at the cannon drum and maybe even worldwide. So it was called the Canada drum in Macau. And it took years it wasn't easy. In fact, it took so long that we feared that Brooklyn may may be dead because dogs were simply killed. The dogs did live there. Didn't make it very long there. But because we had focused on him and gotten worldwide press. And it was a petition with 300,000 signatures, groups from around the world were pressuring the track to release the dog release Brooklyn show show that you're a good actor at least released one dog track refused. There was even $10,000 that some sort of cult leader offered to buy Brooklyn. I mean, everybody was coming together, help started but years went on. So our board member went there in 2011. And it wasn't until 2018, that we were finally able to close the canadream. And not only was Brooklyn still alive, but we were able to airlift 532 of his fellow dogs for freedom with groups around the world. So this was very difficult. And it would take a long time to discuss the whole campaign, obviously. But it was a situation where we took a big risk. Because when we decided when we launched the campaign, asked international partners to sign the petition and share it and help broadcast about the cruelty that was happening and the cannon drum. There were those who said, Listen, you're making a big mistake. All you're going to do is if you if you do manage to close the track, they're just going to kill all the dogs. But that's where diplomacy came in. From the very beginning, our board member in Macau was meeting with officials explained to them what the problem was, you know, these dogs, they lived in a prison compound, just like you see on TV like a prison looks. That's how these dogs live. They had no beds. They were not given medical care. They were basically prisoners who had committed no crime. And Brooklyn was living there for many years. He was kept alive because of the our publicity. And thank God we did get him out and 2018 He flew here to the United States and early 2019. He joined my family. And unfortunately for Brooklyn, he developed osteosarcoma, which is bone cancer, which is extremely we see it a lot in greyhounds. I believe that the pressures of racing only increase the likelihood that bone cancer will develop. Because it is so prevalent in rescue dogs from from racetracks. He developed cancer, and we decided we would do everything we could to give him every extra day. That was possible. So we his leg amputated, we put him through chemotherapy did very well. And then here's what really saved his life. We believe there was a new protocol that was coming out to cure cancer cure osteosarcoma. So we put him in the trial program. And it is we believe it's because of the care that he was given in that program that he lived on for another two years. So I will say that he was a very happy dog. And he was a very much cherished part of my family. So thank you for letting me speak about him. Brooklyn lived until up to the age of 13 years and six months, he inspired us to keep working across the globe. Because it is possible to take on even a Chinese dog track owner and when and that's what keeps me going every day I think of the 1000s and 1000s of greyhounds, approximately 50,000 greyhounds now sitting in small cages at racetracks around the globe. And I want to get them out.

Nicholas Hill  23:46  
I also want to talk about the other side of that coin, which is once you have fried these greyhounds they need somewhere to go and I know that one of your organization's missions is to promote the rescue and adoption of greyhounds as pets. Can you just kind of quickly tell us like what does a greyhound like you know if I if I were thinking about adopting a dog, what is something that's just wonderful about having a greyhound

Christine Dorchak  24:19  
greyhounds are like giant cats. They're extremely calm, relaxed, they like to just sleep and they're just wonderful friends. I really can't tell you how magical it is to have a rescue animal. It's such a wonderful opportunity to give an animal a second chance and they don't shed. They are quiet. They don't bark. I mean they mean they are the easiest dogs to take care of really and lots of people think myself included. When I first started out like I said I didn't know anything. I thought I would have to you know take is my dog on my runs every day? No way. They 30 seconds in, they're done. So the first time I took out my Zoey on a run, we went up a hill. And then she stopped. That was the end of that. She said, we're done. So, you know, they're they do have their own lines, I'll tell you that. And so Zoe, I brought Zoe home and then I went on my run by myself. They, you know, they are sprinters. They're the second fastest animal on Earth, following the cheetah. But At short distances, they are referred to as 45 mile per hour couch potatoes, and we live with three cats. So depending on the dog, just like any dog, it depends on the dog. Greyhounds can be just fine with cats. They're great with older people and younger people. One of the programs we have is called greyhounds, the classroom where we bring a greyhound to classrooms, and introduce the kids to the dogs. And sometimes they, they they're so mystified this, is this a horse or a dog? What the What is this? So there's some some mystery about these dogs. I mean, they're the only dogs mentioned by name in the Bible. It's Odysseus comes home to his Greyhound, that if you look in, you know ancient literature, you will see references to greyhounds as very special beings. But for me, they're just their dogs. And every dog deserves a home. And my goal in a great UK was a is to close down dog tracks and give waiting greyhounds a second chance they deserve.

Nicholas Hill  26:42  
If someone is listening to this, what is something they can do to help?

Christine Dorchak  26:48  
Well, first of all, I'd like to say, you know, working as greyhound racing is my calling. But there's so many things that need to be done in this world. And I would I would advocate for people, not to say no, but to say yes to being part of change. You don't have to be special, I wasn't special. This isn't you know, fighting for social justice is it's not a popularity contest. If you believe in your cause, fight for it, and take it step by step. With us. Our next step is to ask that the federal government, Congress make dog racing illegal nationwide as a matter of law. So we have a bill in Congress now. And on our website, we have information about that bill. And there's a signup thing where you can sign on to send a message to your congressperson. So anybody who'd like to contact their member of Congress to ask them to support the US Greyhound Protection Act, which is HR 3335. At the moment, as I said, you have just keep fighting, it's not an easy, you know, straightforward effort where you file a bill and you pass it, sometimes you have to refile it. And that's probably what we're going to be doing in the next session, if this one doesn't pass very quickly. So it's a slog, you know, it's not glamorous, but it really, it's paying off for the greyhound. So we're going to keep doing it as long as we can. We know the dog racing will soon end here in the United States. It's a matter of time, and effort, and we're going to make, we're going to put in that time and make that effort.

Nicholas Hill  28:37  
I think that that is a great place for us to end for today. And Christine, I just want to thank you for your time today for volunteering to talk with us for everything that GREY2K USA Worldwide is doing for these amazing dogs. I know that I'm really excited to see the end of dog racing in the US and watch you set your sights internationally and just keep going so thank you so much and I really wish your team the best of luck in what you're doing.

Christine Dorchak  29:11  
Thank you so much for having me today. I appreciate it.

Nicholas Hill  29:27  
Today's show was directed and produced by me with music from Alex scroll. Special thanks to our guests for their time and insight. If you like today's episode, please follow us wherever you listen to podcasts and consider leaving a review as it will help us to spread the word about the show. You can view more information about today's episode online at acts of Thank you for listening