Few tracks left to run on, but “trainers” continue setting greyhounds on rabbits
GREELEY, Colorado––Greyhound racing began as the bastard offspring of hare coursing, whitewashed for public consumption by calling it “live lure training.”
Because raw sadism appears to die even harder than the gambling habit, so-called live lure training will likely also outlive greyhound racing, albeit without the pretense that the practice is actually training the dogs to do anything either legal or moral.
Live lure training, in simplest form, is simply setting racing greyhounds on running rabbits, who have no chance of escape from an enclosure.
It differs from coursing only in the pretense that in coursing the rabbits supposedly can escape, if the dogs don’t kill them first.
In more sophisticated form, live lure training including tying terrified wriggling and screaming small animals to a mechanical arm, which keeps the animals in front of the greyhounds for longer.
Only West Virginia, Arkansas, and Iowa still permit greyhound racing. The Arkansas and Iowa tracks, moreover, are due to close at the end of 2022.
That means there is next to no demand in the U.S. for professional greyhound racing trainers and breeders, and has been much demand for greyhound trainers, breeders, and their dogs for many years now.
Indeed, there are far more convicted professional dogfighting trainers in the U.S. than either active or recently active greyhound racing breeders and trainers.
Admitted using live rabbits
Even at that, though, “One of Colorado’s last remaining greyhound racing breeders admitted to state investigators that he used live rabbits to train his dogs,” reported Sam Tabachnik of the Denver Post on February 8, 2022.
The National Greyhound Association long ago banned live lure training, at least on paper, as a belated concession to humane opposition.
But even as the U.S. greyhound industry collapsed, the anti-greyhound racing organization Grey2K USA in 2020 obtained undercover video of trainers, allegedly including a deputy sheriff, conducting live lure training in Elgin, Texas; Abilene, Kansas; and Keota, Oklahoma.
The alleged live lure trainers exposed in 2020 included Ursula O’Donnell, Wesley Parvin, Tori Michelle Shepherd, and Jason Shepherd, along with 15 others believed to have been involved but not charged due to lack of evidence, reported Leslie Newell Peacock of the Arkansas Times.
O’Donnell was arrested in 2002 at the Melbourne Greyhound Park in Melbourne, Florida, and charged with participating in a scheme to dispose of “retired” racing greyhounds by hiring former Pensacola Greyhound Track security guard Robert L. Rhodes to shoot them on his farm near Lillian, Alabama.
Also charged were Paul Discolo Jr., arrested at the Ebro Greyhound Park in Chipley, Florida, and John W. Smith, arrested in Marathon.
Rhodes admitted to shooting from 2,000 to 3,000 “retired” racing greyhounds over the preceding 20 years. The charges against O’Donnell and the others were dropped, however, after Rhodes, 68, died before any of the cases went to trial.
John E. Lashmet
“John E. Lashmet, who, with his wife Jill, operates one of Colorado’s two racing greyhound kennels,” Tabachink wrote, “admitted to a state Division of Racing Events investigator in December 2021 that videos captured by [Grey2K USA] show him ‘live-lure’ training on his Weld County farm, or releasing live rabbits in a pen for the dogs to chase, maim and kill.”
Lashmet three weeks later “allowed his license with the Colorado Division of Racing Events to expire,” Tabachink added.
Details of Tabachink’s admissions were forward to the greyhound racing authorities in West Virginia, Arkansas, and Iowa, Tabachink said.
Colorado banned greyhound racing in 2014.
Scandals Down Under
Australia, among the few other nations where U.S.-style greyhound racing continues, has been roiled by a series of live lure training scandals breaking since 2015.
Most recently, racing greyhound owner and breeder Lynette Noble was in December 2021 “disqualified for four years after being found guilty of five breaches of the Greyhounds Australasia Rules, including associating with a warned off person,” specifically her husband Tom Noble, “and being indirectly involved in the possession of an animal carcass at her registered kennel,” reported AustralianRacingGreyhound.com.
Tom Noble beat the rap––twice
Tom Noble, then 69, in 2016 plea-bargained a three-year suspended sentence on fifteen counts of cruelty.
The Brisbane Times reported that Noble received the suspended sentence in part because of “his role as care-giver for his severely ill wife,” the same wife who was still involved in greyhound racing only months ago.
Two years later, in 2018, the Brisbane Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the Queensland government to confiscate the Nobles’ $600,000 estate as the alleged proceeds of crime.
Chad Achurch got “super-maximum security”
The Crown had somewhat more success in prosecuting greyhound racing trainer and biker Chad Achurch, then 28, who was found in possession of “videos of rabbits squealing to death and dead rabbits in the mouths of dogs on his mobile phone,” the Daily Telegraph summarized.
Sent to the “super-maximum security” Goulburn Correctional Centre in New South Wales for two and a half years, Achurch picked up another year of prison time in August 2020 for allegedly assaulting two other prisoners in separate incidents.
The Noble and Achurch prosecutions followed the 2015 arrests of 23 people on 65 counts of live lure training, using kittens, piglets, rabbits, and brush possums as greyhound bait, as result of a joint investigation conducted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals and the
Queensland Police Service.
Arrests were made in New South Wales, Victoria , and Queensland.
Greyhound racing follows Custer
Ironically, U.S.-style greyhound racing, now making a last stand, might be said to have begun with Custer’s Last Stand during the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.
Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was coursing enthusiast and sometime dogfighter, perhaps known for his success as a “dog man” before leading the Seventh Cavalry into the ambush that cost his life and the lives of about 250 of his soldiers.
Formally organized coursing developed in place of the open prairie coursing practiced by Custer when prey for the hunters’ dog packs ran scarce.
Mechanical lures fooled the public
The National Coursing Association formed in 1888, partly to promote rabbit breeding and releases to rebuild the coursing prey base, and partly to combat rising humane opposition.
California coursing promoter Owen Patrick Smith experimented with mechanical lures to induce greyhounds to run around a track as early as 1907, hoping that a sanitized version of coursing could succeed as a spectator sport and attract gambling revenue too.
Smith opened the first modern greyhound track, the Blue Star Amusement Park, in Emeryville, California, in 1919. It closed in 1921, but Smith and others tried again and again in other locations, eventually finding fortune in parts of the Midwest, where coursing had been most popular, and in Florida, then just developing a reputation as a tourism and retirement destination.
The use of mechanical lures, as Smith anticipated, quelled most humane opposition to greyhound racing.
Organized concern about the treatment and post-racing disposition of racing greyhounds, though addressed by the San Francisco SPCA in particular, did not emerge into widespread public view for more than 50 years.
But greyhound racing was energetically opposed by anti-gambling organizations, mostly associated with churches, and by the horse racing industry, which from the first viewed dog tracks as unwelcome competition.
During the growth years of greyhound racing the most outspoken and successful opponent of it may have been then-California attorney general Earl Warren. Later noted for his pro-civil rights votes as 14th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Warren in 1939 closed the seven-year-old El Cerrito Kennel Club, influencing the two other greyhound tracks then operating in California to shut down before they too were prosecuted.
Wild hare coursing with greyhounds, as Custer knew it, continues chiefly in the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland banned hare coursing with greyhounds on June 23, 2010, six years after the rest of the United Kingdom. Ireland banned hounding deer on June 29, 2010.
Many other forms of hunting wildlife with dogs continue, in the U.S. and abroad, including setting dogs captive wildlife in so-called “chase pens” under the pretext of training the dogs to hunt prey including coyotes, foxes, feral pigs, and bears.
Please donate to help support our work: