Footnotes:The Right Thing

By Gary Guccione   Wed, Aug 20, 2014

There was little time for discussion. Even less time for debate, and no time for argument.

When NGA uncovered a situation in Arkansas in May, where greyhounds were at-risk, the decision to go into action-mode took slightly less than a nanosecond. Within minutes, wheels were literally in motion to get trucks and trailers to the site and transport the 141 greyhounds to safety. Clearly, it was the right thing to do.

In less than 12 hours, that daunting task was accomplished. Then began the recuperation of the greyhounds, followed by their placement back to their rightful owners or into adoption programs. Again, it was the right thing to do. No questions, no debates, no arguments.

In less than three weeks, the NGA Board held a hearing and permanently revoked all registry and racing privileges of the person held accountable for the situation — Shane Vonderstrasse. He was given 30 days to transfer any greyhounds out of his name; after that date no one in the sport was permitted to conduct any greyhound business with him. The ruling was the correct one, and was universally sustained by the rest of the industry and all other greyhound lovers.

The remaining greyhounds were either recordowned, legally owned or partially owned by Vonderstrasse; therefore NGA, under legal advice, needed to place a possessory lien on those remaining greyhounds in order to have legal authority to eventually place them. Kansas law requires, as the final step to validate a lien, that an auction be held. Consequently, most of the remaining 21 greyhounds were sold at auction on June 20 to members in good standing. The rest were immediately placed into adoption programs. This, too, was the right thing to do.

Many decisions loomed daily, but the unspoken code throughout this whole matter was to do whatever was best for the greyhounds. Questions could be asked— and responded to—later.

It was about a week before the sale, though, that Grey2K—silent during the entire time the greyhounds were needing urgent care—finally stuck its nose into the picture, trying to cast the NGA as the Great Satan. First, Grey2K condemned the fact that there was an auction (never mind that it was required by law). That came as no great surprise, since Grey2K would obviously condemn any greyhound sale if it involved our sport in any way.

Grey2K also claimed that the auction was no more than a profit-making money-grab by NGA. Profit? The evacuation and recovery effort cost the AGC and the NGA more than $14,000, while the auction netted last than half that much. What profit?

It should be noted that the auction income went straight back into the welfare fund, contributed by the American Greyhound Council, Inc., for the purpose of greyhound care, dealing with emergency situations and the NGA’s inspection program. All of which makes the “profit” accusation by Grey2K all the more laughable.

By the way, when was the last time anybody saw Grey2K put up $14,000 to provide food and care for greyhounds in an emergency? The answer is: “Never.” And don’t hold your breath….

Grey2K then accused NGA of telling the sheriff of Izard County, Arkansas, not to file charges against the perpetrator of the farm problem. Totally untrue. NGA was advised by the sheriff ’s department that it was ultimately up to the prosecuting attorney in the county to determine whether charges would be filed. NGA told the department that it was their county, their jurisdiction, and their call. NGA said it would cooperate fully if called upon, whatever the decision.

Still, Grey2K’s Kool-Aid drinkers piled on. There were allegations that NGA was actually protecting one of its own. No kidding! Had Grey2K somehow missed the part where NGA, in formal hearing (see above), banished Vonderstrasse from every aspect of the industry—handing down the harshest penalty at its disposal? How could anyone construe that as an attempt by NGA to protect him? Then again, Grey2K has never been known to let the truth get in the way of a good story (or an animal-rights temper tantrum).

Their motive for such behavior? Here’s our stab at it: Hate speech tends to stir up even more hate speech. And anger. Which in the end leads to more donations for its hierarchy. After this latest experience, few inside the industry or on its fringe can doubt that motive. True colors really showed up this time….

Grey2K’s truth-stretching just can’t seem to stop when they get on a roll. The anti-racing group went on to assert that NGA was merely a “lobbying group.”

Now there’s a serious case of the pot calling the kettle black. Lobbying is one of Grey2K’s most significant budget items; both Carey Theil and his wife, Christine Dorchak, are paid healthy salaries for lobbying on behalf of Grey2K.

Second, how many lobbying groups would do what NGA did in this emergency? Unlike Grey2K, the NGA actually delivered on its animal-care commitment with actions to directly benefit greyhounds that were in trouble.

In summary of this unique emergency situation, doing the right thing came automatically and instinctively to the NGA and the industry that adores and cares for its athletes. For that other group, doing the right thing doesn’t seem to come quite so naturally.

For example–

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d have commended NGA’s epic confiscation of 141 dogs. They didn’t—instead, they condemned NGA for the way it handled it (which, by the way, brought raves from all other observers).

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d have offered some assistance at the outset…They didn’t. They never have. The silence was deafening. At least until they found something that would stir up anger among their minions….

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d have at least contacted NGA or made inquiry as to the well-being of the dogs at some point during the recovery process. They didn’t. (Interestingly, one longtime racing critic shockingly did just that, at the very outset…even offered to help pay for medical care, then followed up by inquiring about their progress later on. Grey2K didn’t….)

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d have applauded NGA’s quick action to banish the individual responsible from the sport, for life. They didn’t. Instead they nitpicked about NGA not involving itself in pressing local criminal charges in Arkansas, when that decision and responsibility rested solely in the hands of the prosecuting attorney of the county.

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d put their money where their mouth by actually helping greyhounds on the front line and in the trenches— instead of using nearly all of it for “administration” and “salaries.” They don’t.

If Grey2K really cared about greyhound welfare, they’d have been pro-active in regard to greyhound adoption long ago. They weren’t. Instead, only just recently did they make a token gesture in that regard, likely for window-dressing purposes.

* * * *

The incident in Arkansas was an extremely unique situation. Never, in my 43 years with NGA, have I seen anything like it. NGA’s quick response turned a potentially huge tragedy into a life-saving effort—one that, through the hard work of many in the industry and the adoption community, brought the event to a close in just five-weeks. Remarkable, is what it was….One of the most amazing scenes was the gathering of the local greyhound community in Abilene at NGA grounds late that afternoon on May 16, there to greet the trailers as they came in from Arkansas, and to help move the greyhounds into the safety and comfort of their new environment. It was a powerful moment.

But that was just the start of the effort. There were the daily turnouts, the feeding, vet care, medical treatments, etc. that would follow for weeks to come. The real “heroes” in this case were those who joined in to make sure it was “done right.”

Especially vigilant to offer assistance, space, transportation, accommodating the movement of pets, even whelping out a few pregnant females—whatever it took—were the likes of Randy Finegan (who made the initial inspection and took seven of the more “needy” greyhounds back to W. Memphis with him), Mark Augustine, Carson Strong, Julie Ward, Mike Strickland, Linda Jones, John Taylor, Rosetta Houser, Tim Reiff, Darren Elliot, Toye Cole, Megan Ryan, Ana Nava, Will Gable, Jim Hottman, Ashley Berland, Penny Wick, Melissa Schmidt, Phil and Grayson Harris, Kathleen Hastings and Howard Browning.

Especially going way beyond the call of duty were members of the Ryan family of Abilene—Deanna, Kenny, Paul (and wife Rosie) and Don—all of whom took in pregnant females, and wound up doing so much more by putting in countless hours of volunteer service. The tireless efforts of NGA’s groundskeeper and inspector Dallas Jenne (with help from his wife Cody) was amazing, and invaluable….

Please thank any or all of these folks for their help next time you see them. I, for one, will never forget their willingness to help–their selfless sacrifice to do what needed to be done….

* * * *

You’ll find all the Fall Meet (Oct. 13-18) schedules in this Review issue. Most are expecting a bigger-thanusual gathering for the Track Stakes. Seven-figure auctions being the norm at recent meets is one of the reasons for that….

Nominators should make note of a few changes in the auction rules (i.e., passing penalties) and Track Stake schedule for this upcoming meet. The intermissions on Monday and Tuesday have been reinstated, with three age groups being staged each day (rather than four on Monday and two on Tuesday)….Concerns about the future of the Borchers Stake (following Mike Borchers’ passing in April) have been answered. Mike’s widow, Chris, has seen to it that the stake will again be part of the program this fall….

Banquet honorees will be popular Kansas breeder Steve Ward and his wife Edie, of Ellis. It’ll be at that banquet that the three young pups, featured in this issue, will be given away as culmination of the NGA’s 41st Annual Pup Giveaway to benefit the Greyhound Hall Of Fame. Special thanks go out to the owners who’ve graciously contributed these three prizes: Steve Sarras, Karen and Herby Legg, and the Steven and Julie Boyd family of the Craigie, Inc. team (including the kids—Shannon, Michelle, Ashley and Hughie). See pictures of these pups elsewhere in this issue—along with the first set of tickets that can make you eligible…. Speaking of the Hall Of Fame—inductees on Thursday night of the meet will be a trio representing all three major facets of the sport: the greyhounds themselves (Fred Fulchino’s EA’s Itzaboy), track management (Derby Lane’s Vey Weaver) and the greyhound owners and breeders (N.J. “Jack” Sherck). See Cecilia Harris’ feature this issue….

Hope you’re making plans to joins us for another super Fall Meet….