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Greyhound Friends fails to meet "Five Freedoms" of animal welfare

Blog about Greyhound Friends

Learn more about the issues that animal rescue law enforcement and state agencies uncovered about the greyhound adoption group Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Greyhound Friends is closed but is trying to obtain a new kennel license, despite recent reports that they neglected sick and injured dogs.

Greyhound Friends fails to meet "Five Freedoms" of animal welfare

Stephen Bassignani

Greyhound adoption rescue did not provide basic standards of care to dogs

Decades ago, the animal rescue community, including the World Organization for Animal Health, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and many veterinarians, agreed upon five fundamental freedoms that every animal is entitled to:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  • Freedom to express normal behavior 
  • Freedom from fear and distress

It is troubling that Greyhound Friends failed to meet these very basic standards. These are just a few examples.

#1: Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and diet to maintain health

Greyhound Friends - dirty floor & empty water buckets.jpg

Former Greyhound Friends kennel workers complained that the dogs were only fed once a day, and at times they would arrive in the morning to find water buckets empty. At least one volunteer reported that dogs were sometimes fed food that had long ago expired. Records show that some of the dogs experienced rapid weight loss and severe diarrhea at Greyhound Friends.

Greyhound Friends - skinny dog.jpg
Waylon lost four pounds in just over a month at Greyhound Friends. You can see his ribs in this photo. 

#2: Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area

greyhound lying down in small kennel.jpg

MSPCA Law Enforcement and Animal Rescue League of Boston Law Enforcement told Greyhound Friends board members in 2015 they were concerned that Greyhound Friends was not giving adequate space to the dogs, explaining that this can exacerbate kennel stress. Greyhound Friends did not address these concerns. 

Greyhound Friends - hound too small crate.jpg

There were also repeated complaints that Greyhound Friends had some dogs living in crates that were too small for them. Two staff members left Greyhound Friends due to issues such as greyhounds were being kept in travel crates that were so small they often had to be forced back in the crates after they were taken out to relieve themselves. Officials caught Greyhound Friends keeping dogs in these small crates multiple times. 

#3: Freedom from pain, injury, or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment

Injured dog at Greyhound Friends.jpg

Greyhound Friends neglected the care of sick and injured dogs. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources documented this disturbing finding after a review of Greyhound Friends' own records as well as those of veterinarians who examined dogs recently transferred out of the Greyhound Friends kennel. 

Greyhound Friends was also not consistently giving dogs medication to protect them from fleas and ticks, parasites like hookworms, or diseases like heartworm (despite the fact that they were importing dogs from states where this disease is prevalent). When the Greyhound Friends kennel license was temporarily suspended in early 2017, 63% of the dogs at the kennel were diagnosed with at least one form of internal parasite. Others contracted heartworm disease, which is contagious and life threatening. 

"It is bad to have a heartworm positive dog in your neighborhood and it's even worse in a kennel," explained Veterinarian and President of Forensic Veterinary Investigations Martha Smith-Blackmore in a recent MetroWest Daily News article. "In a shelter environment, the risk of heartworm spreading is high."

#4: Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and company of the animal’s own kind

Sammi at Greyhound Friends.png

Animal behaviorists and trainers advised Greyhound Friends to stop confining dogs in small cages for excessive periods of time (some for three and four years at a time). Despite Greyhound Friends Board President Stoddard Melhado's assurances to law enforcement personnel in 2015 that "we hear [this message] loud and clear," Greyhound Friends did not give the dogs more room. 

In 2016, animal behaviorist Kelley Bollen toured the kennel and wrote a report to the Greyhound Friends Board of Directors about its inhumane practices, including leaving dogs in barren cages, using "flooding" techniques, and keeping dogs in cages that were entirely too small.

She wrote a lengthy report to educate the Greyhound Friends board of directors about how these conditions can cause a dog to become aggressive or depressed, which can lead to what's called 'learned helplessness'. "The animal basically gives up because they have learned that no matter what they do, they cannot get out of the cage or provide themselves with anything for stimulation. This is a very sad state for any animal to be in and completely inhumane to allow dogs to be housed in these conditions." Unfortunately, Greyhound Friends board members denied these problems.

#5: Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering

Reports show that Greyhound Friends Executive Director Louise Coleman, Greyhound Friends Board President Stoddard Melhado, Greyhound Friends Board Member (now Kennel Manager) Theresa Shepard, and other Greyhound Friends staff and board members were told on numerous occasions over the years by animal welfare law enforcement, animal behaviorists, and other animal welfare professionals that the conditions in the kennel were causing the dogs unnecessary fear and distress. By all accounts, this resulted in denials by Greyhound Friends that there was a problem. 

 

monique gash 08.18.15.jpg

By late 2016/early 2017, animal welfare agencies visited Greyhound Friends and found it in such a state of disrepair that one inspector called it an unsafe place of detention for animals. Inspectors found yards littered with animal waste, walls and floors in one room soaked in urine, jagged and rusty kennels, among other issues.

A Greyhound Friends spokesperson stated that "no dog had been injured" there but this is not accurate. One dog had suffered a gash in her leg after it was caught on a piece of metal sticking out of the fence. There were at least two instances where dogs at Greyhound Friends were attacked by other dogs badly enough to require stitches. Greyhound Friends left one of the dogs without veterinary care for four days after the attack.

After Greyhound Friends ignored multiple warnings to address unsafe and unsanitary conditions, the state ordered the kennel to cease operations, and the town temporarily suspended its kennel license.