by Dennis McKeon
Let’s be clear about one thing. Any legislation that requires injury reporting without accountability, on its face, is an exercise in futility. The mere reporting of injuries without mandates to insure that all necessary steps are taken by those whose responsibility it is to provide as safe and hazard-free racing venue and surface as is humanly possible, isn’t worth the paper it is written on.
The often reported fabrication that injuries have been magically reduced as a result of simply adopting an injury reporting program, is pure, unadulterated nonsense. Injury reporting alone, has no more effect upon reducing racing injuries to greyhounds than does the mere reporting of automobile accidents alone have in reducing injuries to drivers and passengers. There has to be accountability.
Moreover, if there were no injury reporting in a state, how is a comparison to be drawn once injury reporting has been employed? If there were no injury reports, where did the comparative data come from that suggests the mere reportage of injures can somehow reduce them? And in the case where racing programs are reduced from year round to seasonal, as in Massachusetts, then there should be an equal, relative reduction in injuries, with or without injury reporting. There is no cause and effect achieved upon the greyhounds or the racing surface itself, by the simple filing of a document.
The Gaetz injury reporting bill, recently passed by the Senate in Florida, is just such a piece of junk legislation. It is not designed to reduce and prevent injuries to greyhounds, but is crafted to burden veterinarians and greyhound breeders and trainers, (even those breeders and owners who are out of state) with paperwork and bureaucracy.
Additionally, it will accomplish nothing more than providing non-contextual fodder for donation seeking anti-racing propagandists, ultimately to no one’s benefit—other than the racetracks who wish to transition into casino operation, or full-fledged casino operations, without ever having bid for those privileges. It is the management of those racetracks who are and always have been responsible for the condition of their racing surfaces and all related equipment.
No bona-fide or ethical greyhound advocate, within or outside of racing, could possibly be oblivious or antagonistic to the need for mandating more diligence on the part of those racetracks in doing a better job than they have been recently, while noting the widely reported rash of injuries and fatalities at Florida’s racetracks—and the transparent and attendant cries for “decoupling”.
Which is simply code for : “We were granted permission to conduct casino and card room wagering only because we already were already licensed for Pari-Mutuel wagering. Knowing that expanding into those operations would negatively impact the wagering on our greyhound races, we agreed to share a small percentage of that revenue with the kennels, for not making a big fuss, and for allowing us to circumvent the usual balloting and bidding procedures, and to rake in a windfall. Now that we have gotten what we wanted, and after years of having failed to promote greyhound racing, we would like to renege on that arrangement.”
Can you spell “conflict of interest”?
The Greyhound Safety Act is pending legislation that not only requires injury reporting, but requires that racetrack management and their racing departments do a better job of maintaining a safe racing surface, as well as updating their electronic lure equipment to fail-safe them from presenting shock and concussion hazards to the greyhounds.
Racetrack surface maintenance is a science. It involves a lot more than just running a drag over the racing surface so that it looks nice and smooth. Two critical factors in analyzing and evaluating the safety of a racing surface are its component makeup (relative amounts of sand, silt, clay), and injury reports. Noted veterinarian and canine biomechanical expert, Dr. Rob Gillette, has this to say, regarding the proper use of injury reports and their role in managing a racing surface:
“Two ways to assess the racing surface are by using injury reports or by analyzing the surface. Injury reports can be used to determine the status of the racing surface. If there is a rise in injuries the racing surface should be considered as a possible cause. Certain injuries are related to various surface problems. This is a controversial way to assess the racing surface because changes to the track occur after the injuries have occurred. The surface itself can be analyzed for changes or problems. The content can be analyzed or base measurements can be determined. This method is better in preventing injuries…
Each racing facility regulatory veterinarian should keep a record of racing injuries. If a sudden increase in numbers occur, the racing surface should be evaluated for surface alterations. There can be seasonal variation in injury numbers, but these will be documented by the injury records. Certain track conditions will produce injuries related to that condition…
Assessing the racing surface using injury reports is one way to assess racetrack status. It requires little effort by the individuals involved and requires minimal knowledge of the racetrack mechanics. Its drawback is that the injuries have occurred before any evaluation is possible…
Once the basic information is accumulated to understand the normal paw-to-surface interaction the racing surface can be analyzed periodically for detrimental surface changes. That way surface problems can be detected before the injuries occur. The information required to have a basic knowledge of the foot-surface relationship includes content materials and RATIOS, base depths, force absorption, and surface traction.”
So we can see that while injury reports are a necessary adjunct to assuring optimal greyhound safety while racing, they are in no way a panacea. The cynical, out of context use of them to simply gin up public outrage and to raise pity donations for phony advocacy groups, without any mandates for racetrack management to finally begin to avail themselves of 21st century technology in preparing and maintaining their racing surfaces, is a waste of time and money. Unless, of course, your endgame is to impel more, not fewer injuries, so that your political agenda can be achieved.
Support the Greyhound Safety Act, co sponsored by Senator Chris Smith and Representative Kevin Rader—the only pending legislation in Florida that will actually help to prevent injuries to racing greyhounds.
Copyright, 2015 Dennis McKeon