Bipartisan Lawmakers Seek To Ban Greyhound Racing

A group of U.S. House representatives are re-introducing a failed bill from 2020 that would ban greyhound racing at West Virginia’s two dog racetracks, the only ones remaining in the U.S. But state and federal lawmakers are pushing back.

Bipartisan Lawmakers Seek To Ban Greyhound Racing

West Virginia lawmakers are not too happy about a bipartisan group of U.S. House of Representatives members re-introducing a bill that would end greyhound racing at the state’s two dog racetracks.

U.S. Reps. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.; Salud Carbajal, D-Calif.; Zach Nunn, R-Iowa; Nancy Mace, R-S.C.; Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Oregon; and Don Davis, D-N.C., are co-sponsors or H.R. 3894, the Greyhound Protection Act.

The measure would amend the Animal Welfare Act to ban greyhound racing in the U.S. and make it illegal to wager on greyhound racing. The bill also would prohibit remote gambling on greyhound races and end the transport and sale of greyhounds across state lines for the purpose of racing.

Cardenas, a known animal welfare advocate and member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, said in a statement, “Greyhound racing is a cruel, dying industry that deserves no place in our country. These dogs are often forced into brutal training regimes and races where they risk serious injury and death. When they are not racing or training, these animals are often subject to horrifying, inhumane treatment such as drugging, electrocution and confinement for up to 23 hours a day. This bipartisan bill will end the commercial greyhound racing industry, and the animal abuses it has become so associated with, once and for all.”

The only two remaining greyhound tracks in the U.S. are in West Virginia: Mardi Gras Casino and Resort near Charleston and Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack, both owned by Delaware North.

Glen White, a spokesman for Delaware North, commented that the company has no plans to end greyhound racing, but it “continues to monitor legislative efforts to end greyhound racing in West Virginia and would support phasing out greyhound racing at our two casinos there if legislation passed that would allow us to operate the casinos without operating racing.”

Meanwhile, pushback from lawmakers is intensifying. In 2020, State Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, who owns an adopted greyhound, voted against the previous version of the bill, which failed 11-23.

According to the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, he said, “Once again, here is Washington trying to dictate to West Virginia what it can and cannot do. We had a bill a couple of years ago that would have effectively ended greyhound racing, and that bill went down to a pretty strong defeat in the Senate. The legislators who are responsible and elected here in West Virginia made it clear that there wasn’t an interest in ending greyhound racing.”

West Virginia’s two members of Congress – 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney and 1st District Congresswoman Carol Miller both stated they do not support the Greyhound Protection Act and believe ending greyhound racing should be left up to West Virginia citizens.

Per the News and Sentinel, Mooney said, “Greyhound racing has a rich history in the state of West Virginia. Decisions related to the future of dog tracks in the state should be made by the state government and the private sector.” Miller noted, “I oppose anything that hurts West Virginia’s businesses. I’ll continue to do anything in my power to make sure West Virginia’s economy thrives.”

Interestingly, greyhound racing handle at the nation’s two remaining tracks has grown over the last four years. Mardi Gras’ handle for 2022 was more than $124 million, a 153 percent increase from $49 million in 2019. At Wheeling Island, handle was more than $233 million, a 207 percent increase from $76 million in 2019.

House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said, “The greyhound industry is doing record numbers in West Virginia and safety is paramount. Quite frankly, it has a better job performance than Congress. I would invite anyone supporting this bill to visit Wheeling. They would see climate-controlled kennels and dogs under strict veterinary care who get adopted at nearly 100 percent rate upon retirement. They would see generations of families working in the industry and giving back to our community. Facts matter and are more important than poorly run public relations campaigns against this industry.”

Cardenas, however, said the Greyhound Protection Act has the support of more than 250 animal rights groups, including GREY2K USA Worldwide.

Christine A. Dorchak, president and general counsel of GREY2K USA Worldwide, said in a statement, “Greyhound racing is cruel from start to finish. The Greyhound Protection Act will give greyhounds the second chance they deserve and put a rightful end to over 100 years of callous exploitation. As dog racing fades in the United States, it is moving across the border and the criminality of greyhound racing is particularly attractive to cartel affiliated groups trying to capitalize on it.”

According to GREY2K, commercial greyhound racing is illegal in 42 states; seven states have banned live greyhound racing, including Florida, Alabama and Arkansas. Since 2001, 46 greyhound tracks have closed nationwide.