Kennel Supply owner Jon Stidham to forfeit more in profits than the Iowa greyhound racing industry has seen in years
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa––Former Iowa Greyhound Association president Jon Stidham, 57, who most recently served the association as vice president and treasurer, on January 5, 2022 pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally dealing drugs, committing conspiracy, and mail fraud.
Stidham, who reportedly left the Iowa Greyhound Association board in January 2020, is a longtime greyhound kennel operator in McClelland, Iowa, a hamlet of about 130 people located about 22 miles east of Omaha, Nebraska.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, Stidham was convicted of “conspiracy to deliver, distribute or dispense methyltestosterone, a Schedule III controlled substance, by means of the Internet without a valid prescription and without complying with federal and Iowa licensing requirements,” along with “one count of conspiracy to introduce misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud.”
Continued the U.S. Attorney’s Office in a prepared statement, “In a plea agreement, Stidham admitted that he operated a business called Kennel Supply, LLC. Kennel Supply supplied a variety of items used for the operation of kennels and the care of farm animals at the brick-and-mortar location.
“On the Internet, Kennel Supply sold controlled substances and non-controlled prescription drugs that require prescriptions to lawfully dispense to the ultimate user.
Sold 50+ drugs without valid prescriptions
“From 2015 through October 12, 2018, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “Stidham distributed and sold over 300,000 doses of methyltestosterone without valid prescriptions. He illegally profited by over $324,000.
“During that same time,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office continued, “Stidham illegally distributed over 50 types of prescription drugs without a valid prescription or authorization, and illegally profited over $200,000.”
Stidham “remains free on bond pending sentencing,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
$527,510 & 15 months
Depending on the recommendations of a pre-sentencing report, and on Stidham’s behavior meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge C.J. Williams could order Stidham to spend up to 15 years in federal prison, pay a fine of up to $750,000 plus $200 in special assessments, and remain under court supervision for the rest of his life.
“The plea agreement also includes an agreement that Stidham will forfeit illegal profits of $527,510 to the United States,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office stipulated.
However, reported Lee Rood of the Des Moines Register, attorney F. Montgomery Brown, representing Stidman, “said that Stidham has agreed to serve 15 months behind bars, with supervision after his release.”
Brown told Rood that methyltestosterone, a synthetic form of the male sex hormone testosterone, “is sometimes used to prevent female greyhounds from going into heat.”
Summarized Rood, “Stidham used an unnamed family member and co-conspirator in Kansas to help ship the drugs and then pick them up, prosecutors said, and also used a Kansas veterinarian’s license and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration registration number to acquire the drugs from wholesalers. The drug sales happened without any animal examination by a veterinarian, as is typically required.
“Stidham and others, who were not named, forged the veterinarian’s signature, according to the plea agreement,” Rood said.
Rood noted that, “The Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission suspended Stidham’s kennel license at the end of December 2021 after he failed to report that he had been charged in federal court.”
Greyhound industry falling like a house of cards
Further, Rood mentioned, “Stidham’s conviction comes as Iowa’s last greyhound racing track, Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, prepares for its final racing season. At the end of the shortened season, running from April 16 to May 15, greyhound racing in Iowa — one of just a handful of states with active tracks — will exist no more.”
Greyhound racing was ended in Florida by ballot initiative, effective at the close of 2020. The Southland track in Memphis, Tennessee is scheduled to close by December 2022.
That will leave the Wheeling Island Casino & Racetrack and the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, both in West Virginia, as the last two operating greyhound racing venues in the U.S.––and those two tracks appear to be operating chiefly as a legal requirement for their owners to host card games and other forms of gambling.
“Hooked on the greyhounds”
Stidham “got hooked on the greyhounds by driving to Sodrac,” a North Sioux City greyhound track that operated from 1957 to 1995, “as a teenager to watch the races,” recounted Omaha World-Herald staff writer Andrew J. Nelson in 2014.
Stidman “was attending the University of Wyoming,” Nelson continued, “when Bluffs Run opened in 1986.”
The Bluffs Run greyhound track in Council Bluffs was Stidman’s main racing venue for the next 29 years.
However, Nelson wrote, “gambling profits at Iowa’s two dog tracks—Bluffs Run and Mystique Casino in Dubuque—plummeted from a combined total of $186 million in 1986 to $5.9 million in 2012.”
Lost bet on greyhound industry recovery
Stidham opened Kennel Supply, LLC in 2007, selling raw meat as well as pharmaceuticals. Customers appear to have included at least one pit bull breeder and some roadside zoos, but Stidham remained closely focused on the greyhound industry, even as it dwindled toward the vanishing point.
Bluffs Run closed at the end of the 2015 greyhound racing season.
“I’m going to be out of business,” lamented Stidham to Nelson, “unless I decide to relocate 335 miles across the state.”
Wrote Nelson in a 2015 follow-up, “Stidham, a breeder and owner of a greyhound feed and supply operation, said his business has dropped by about half in the past year as the end of greyhound racing in Iowa loomed.”
Said Stidham, “I haven’t lost business to competitors. I’ve lost business to people not breeding or getting out.”
The 10-kennel Iowa Greyhound Association stepped in to keep the Mystique Casino track in Dubuque operating as the Iowa Greyhound Park.
That venture faltered out of the gate, Associated Press reported in September 2015, when “Random and routine pre-race sampling showed that twelve dogs tested positive for ractopamine, according to Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko.”
One of the dogs died.
“Nine of the greyhounds are from Stidham Racing LLC kennel,” Associated Press noted.
Why was a drug used to fatten pigs & steers used in greyhounds?
Ractopamine, a beta-agonist class synthetic steroid, is commonly used in the U.S. to promote rapid pre-slaughter weight gain in pigs and steers but is banned in 160 nations.
The European Union has prohibited the import of animals treated with ractopamine since 2009.
“Ractopamine is banned in animal racing,” explained Ryan J. Foley of Associated Press, “because it can be used to mimic the effects of steroids––reducing body fat while enhancing muscle growth. One study has linked the drug to ‘arterial, cardiac, and skeletal muscle damage’ in greyhounds.”
Stidham Racing LLC and a greyhound kennel owned by Robert Hardison were barred from competition at the Iowa Greyhound Park. Stidham trainer Jessica Hughes and Hardison trainer Alicia Bushey were suspended.
Tip from West Virginia
The loss of the 70 greyhounds entered by the two kennels obliged the Iowa Greyhound Park to cut the number of races per card from 15 to 12 for the balance of the 2015 season.
That episode, Rood of the Des Moines Register remembered, “eventually led to another investigation by Iowa’s Board of Pharmacy and Division of Criminal Investigation.
“The Board of Pharmacy received a tip from a West Virginia animal hospital, which said Stidham was marketing and selling drugs, including methylestosterone, illegally online.
Found in possession
“Prosecutors [at the January 5, 2022 trial] said the Iowa Board of Pharmacy told Stidham that his sale of prescription drugs and controlled substances was not lawful, according to federal court documents. The board gave him instructions on how to legally market the drugs, but he didn’t follow them, according to the federal court case.”
A federal search warrant executed on October 17, 2018 reportedly found Stidham in possession of misbranded prescription animal drugs including Sulfamethoxazole, Trimethoprim, Gentizol, Otomax, Butatron and Prednisone.
The Iowa Greyhound Park drugging scandal sparked heightened attention to drug use in greyhound racing nationwide.
Data compiled by the Racing Laboratory at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published in March 2018 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, revealed that 1,150 greyhounds had flunked race day urine samples administered at Florida tracks since July 1998.
Of those greyhounds, 230 flunked tests for cocaine and two metabolites of cocaine, benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester.
Doping Down Under
The scandal spread to Australia. Reported Sydney Morning Herald data journalist Nigel Gladstone in May 2018, “Since 2017 there have been more than 100 penalties handed out to dog trainers for doping-related offenses and 12 more are currently under investigation.
“Greyhound Racing New South Wales has handed more than 250 penalties to trainers and owners for various offenses since February 2015,” Gladstone continued.
“In the six months to December 2017,” Gladstone added, “about 12% of all the greyhounds who raced suffered at least one injury, and 55 greyhounds were euthanized” due to their injuries.