With a week to go before voters decide whether to end dog racing by 2010, a move that would close tracks in Raynham and Revere, a statewide dog breeder group is warning the vote could set a legal precedent to ban dog shows or limit hobby breeding.
Nancy Fisk is a dog lover, but don’t dare call her an animal rights advocate.
The longtime breeder and dog show exhibitor would like to see greyhound racing continue — partly because she feels the dogs love it, partly because she fears its death could mean that dog shows and other competitions would get axed next.
“Our concern is this is an incremental step toward stopping what we do,” said Fisk, vice president of the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners, a statewide breeder group opposing the ballot question to ban greyhound racing.
With a week to go before voters decide whether to end dog racing by 2010, a move that would close tracks in Raynham and Revere, the breeder group is warning the vote could set a legal precedent to ban dog shows or limit hobby breeding.
Question 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters to “prohibit any dog racing or racing meeting in Massachusetts where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs occurs.”
Fisk, an Akita Inu breeder whose kennel club meets in Raynham, said she supports animal welfare but not animal rights.
“Animals are not people with fur suits,” she said.
Christine A. Dorchak, co-chairwoman of the Committee to Protect Dogs, the group campaigning to end dog racing, said the organization has “no position” on dog shows, agility contests or hobby breeding.
“We have no campaign against the Westminster Dog Show,” she said.
But breeders and exhibitors say they are worried other activists could pick up where Dorchak leaves off.
“I think somebody who has a fundamental problem with racing is going to have the same fundamental issues with other sports,” said Holly Stump, a MassFed board member from Ipswich.
The two practices often mean dogs are trained, crated and transported around the country for show.
But Stump said she sees nothing cruel about breeding, showing or racing dogs.
“It’s important to remember that animals are property, and really, there shouldn’t be a lot of interference with what one does with their property, provided no laws are broken,” she said.
The debate over whether dog racing amounts to animal cruelty has been fiery, but the law is on the side of the track and kennel owners.
Under Massachusetts law, racing itself is not an act of cruelty to animals.
The law protects against “cruel or inhuman” treatment of animals in a race, game or contest.
On a recent visit to Raynham Park, the track’s management did not allow a reporter to enter the kennel area, citing liability concerns.
Supporters of greyhound racing maintain the dogs enjoy running, and could not be the elite, muscular athletes they are if they were cramped in a cage all day and fed poorly.
Opponents say the sport is inherently cruel, citing injury rates and arguing kennel owners offer substandard care.
As for the breeders and exhibitors, they said greyhound racing has been an easy target because of its ties to gambling.
But some like Fisk, the MassFed vice president, fear it would be “fairly likely” that people who show dogs or use them for hunting and farming could be targeted next.
Dorchak, of the anti-racing group, has also said the campaign takes “no position” on gambling, casinos or other animal issues.
“Grey2K has a clear history of working exclusively on the greyhound issue,” she said.
Jessica Scarpati can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.