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FAQs about Greyhound Friends

Hear why animal welfare professionals and other concerned citizens are against Greyhound Friends efforts to try and get a kennel license again. 

Frequently asked questions about Greyhound Friends

 

Greyhound Friends dogs housed together.jpg

Why are residents concerned about the possibility of Greyhound Friends obtaining a kennel license?

·      Greyhound Friends neglected the care of sick and injured dogs at the kennel, as documented in a 236-page report by the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources.

·      Greyhound Friends kept dogs in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, despite numerous warnings to address these issues. These conditions were documented by the state animal inspector, state veterinarian, as well as law enforcement officers at the MSPCA and Animal Rescue League. 

·      Greyhound Friends is under investigation by the Public Charities Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, who investigates allegations of misappropriation of charitable funds and breaches of fiduciary duty.  

How can I get involved? 

If you have concerns about Greyhound Friends being issued a kennel license, we encourage you to email the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen and sign the petition against reinstatement of the kennel license.  

What if I have seen problems at Greyhound Friends or have a concern about a dog I received from Greyhound Friends?

We encourage you to contact Mike Cahill at the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources at michael.cahill@state.ma.us. They are the state agency that registers animal rescues.

Why was Greyhound Friends ordered to cease operations?

During multiple visits in late 2016/early 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Animal Rescue League Law Enforcement uncovered unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the kennel and warned Greyhound Friends to address these issues. After repeated warnings went unheeded, the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources issued a cease & desist order to Greyhound Friends to stop importing dogs from out of state. The Town of Hopkinton then suspended the kennel license.

What happened to the dogs who were at Greyhound Friends?

After the cease & desist order was issued, Greyhound Friends was responsible for moving the remaining dogs out, overseen by the Department of Agricultural Resources. The agency offered to help Greyhound Friends place the remaining dogs through other animal rescue organizations. However, the reports show that Greyhound Friends refused, saying they did not have good relationships with any of the rescue groups mentioned. They adopted out some dogs and moved some into foster homes. Greyhound Friends then chose to place the remaining dogs into boarding facilities instead of sending them to animal rescues that could have found them homes.

It is believed that Greyhound Friends kept some of these dogs in boarding facilities for months. A news article recently revealed that Greyhound Friends boarded some of the dogs at the Holliston Meadows boarding facility while the dogs were contagious with giardia.  

What is the current status of the Greyhound Friends’ kennel license?

The cease & desist order is still in place, and the kennel does not have a license to house dogs at this time. 

Greyhound Friends has stated that it is working to get the cease & desist lifted and to get a kennel license again.

What is the process for obtaining a kennel license?

Kennels apply for a license through the town clerk’s office, and the animal control officer conducts a kennel inspection. Our understanding is that there would also be a public hearing before the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen before a decision was made about a Greyhound Friends kennel license.

Should Greyhound Friends get a second chance?

Unfortunately, there have been many chances given to this organization. The records show that Greyhound Friends has a long history of repeated violations, from housing dogs in small crates to rampant overcrowding. When caught, Greyhound Friends has repeatedly given authorities assurances that they would improve the care of the dogs in the future. However, the problems continued. 

Greyhound Friends has received at least three cease & desist orders, numerous shut downs, fines, and countless warnings over the years, yet continued to violate animal welfare regulations. These regulations are in place to protect the lives of dogs in the kennel and to safeguard people and animals in our community from disease outbreaks. 

Public records revealed that many of these problems have been going on for decades. We are not aware of any animal rescue organization that has this pattern of behavior.

Animal law enforcement agencies repeatedly met with Greyhound Friends over the years, expressing their concern about the treatment of dogs, offering help, recommendations, and professional resources. However, records show that Greyhound Friends failed to act. 

What happened with the criminal trial against the executive director of Greyhound Friends?

Due to the limited nature of the MGL animal cruelty law, the criminal charge was very narrow in scope. The case only asked one question: Were there unsanitary conditions that occurred between 2015-2017 at Greyhound Friends that rose to the level of felony animal cruelty? The judge determined that they did not. 

What evidence was not included in the criminal trial?

Due to the fact that the case focused only on unsanitary conditions over a two-year period, the case did not include:

·      The 236-page report about sick and injured dogs Greyhound Friends neglected

·      Testimony from former Greyhound Friends staff members and volunteers who witnessed problems prior to 2015

·      Testimony from the state veterinarian

·      Statements from animal welfare experts about the mental condition of dogs who were confined for years

·      The numerous animal welfare violations between 1988-2015

·      Information about the organization’s financial decisions and their alleged detrimental impact on the dogs

Will there be additional criminal charges against Greyhound Friends or its board of directors?

We do not know the answer to this question. The Massachusetts Attorney General’s investigation is still ongoing.

Regardless of whether the myriad issues uncovered fall under a felony criminal statute, they demonstrate an unacceptable level of care of animals. 

Why is it a big deal to have unsanitary conditions in a kennel?

Unsanitary conditions further the spread of disease. Proper cleaning and disinfection practices are critical steps for reducing the transmission of infectious diseases to both animals and people. This is particularly important in an animal shelter setting, where some animals may be more vulnerable to illness.

Were dogs at Greyhound Friends sick?

In January 2017, 63 percent of the dogs at Greyhound Friends tested positive for at least one form of internal parasite. Parasitic infections can cause symptoms such as bloody diarrhea and lethargy, and can leave dogs prone to anemia and other illnesses. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources also discovered that Greyhound Friends was not properly diagnosing and treating dogs for infectious diseases. 

Why wasn’t Greyhound Friends criminally charged for hoarding animals?

Animal hoarding involves keeping a large number of animals without the ability to house or care for them, coupled with denial of the inability to provide adequate care. Based on the perpetual overcrowding of the Greyhound Friends kennel, the confinement of dogs for excessive periods of time, the ongoing warehousing of dogs at offsite facilities, and the documented evidence of neglect, it appears that hoarding did take place at Greyhound Friends. 

Unfortunately, animal hoarding is not covered under the current animal cruelty laws in Massachusetts. 

What is known about the phenomenon of animal hoarding?

There are different types of hoarders, but they tend to have several characteristics in common:

·      They have more than the typical number of companion animals.

·      They are unable to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care.

·      They deny their inability to provide this minimum care and they deny the impact of that failure on the animals.  

How does hoarding harm animals?

Hoarding often involves accumulating too many animals, which furthers the spread of disease and can cause immense stress for the animals. Neglect is often found in hoarding cases.

Research has also demonstrated that long-term confinement has a debilitating impact on the physical and mental health of animals. The stress of confinement often manifests itself in undesirable behaviors, such as lunging at the cage door, excessive barking and growling, cowering, repetitive behaviors like spinning in their cage; stress-induced ailments such as diarrhea or skin outbreaks; and difficulty fighting off illness.

Addressing hoarding in a purported animal rescue setting is often difficult because people have a perception that the rescue is helping animals. Sadly, that is often not the case.

In a Best Friends Magazine article entitled “The Hidden Life of Hoarders,” Dr. Gary Patronek, a veterinarian, epidemiologist, and the founder of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University, described a hoarding case that involved “collective denial” of an animal shelter group, which contributed to the suffering of cats. “Rescue hoarders believe they’re the only ones who can adequately care for their animals, and they are in complete denial about the terrible conditions they’re living in," Dr. Patronek stated..."We really don’t understand how groups of people, as opposed to individuals acting alone, could ignore suffering…in a shelter or rescue environment."

Why do people hoard animals?

The Animal Legal Defense Fund found that "as with other acts of animal cruelty, it may be impossible to know for sure what motivates the abuse inflicted by hoarders." The Tufts University Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium explains that "animal hoarding is not about animal sheltering, but is driven by an individual's need to accumulate animals and control them. This need supersedes the needs of the animals involved. Although hoarding may start out as a seemingly benevolent mission to save animals, eventually the needs of the animals become lost to the person's needs for control. The resulting compulsive care giving is pursued to fulfill unmet human needs, while the real needs of the animals are ignored or disregarded."

“There are at least three different types of hoarders have been identified: overwhelmed caregiver, rescue hoarder and exploiter hoarder,” Dr. Patronek explained. “It is the latter that is the least likely to have good intentions. There’s a big difference between a legitimate shelter or sanctuary and a hoarder who operates under the guise of being a no-kill organization. Legitimate sanctuaries don’t take in more animals than they can properly care for. They isolate the animals when they first come in so they can be screened for communicable diseases before placing them with healthy animals. They give them the medical care they need and they work hard to place them in good new homes. Their grounds are clean and they have adequate staff to care for the animals.”

Who provides oversight of animal kennels?

The town animal control officer conducts an annual inspection of kennels and has the authority to inspect kennels if a complaint is lodged.

Can the animal care problems at Greyhound Friends be resolved through stronger enforcement?

A review of the historical records about Greyhound Friends show that stronger enforcement has been tried before and did not resolve the issues. There is only so much that can be addressed through enforcement efforts. An animal control officer can respond to a complaint to determine if a kennel is overcrowded. However, enforcement becomes more difficult if the organization involved is moving dogs around to offsite facilities, as historically has been the case at Greyhound Friends. 

More importantly, providing enforcement to prevent medical neglect of dogs is a larger challenge. Animal control officers are not typically trained to identify whether an animal is receiving prompt medical care. For example, the animal control officer would have had no way of knowing that Greyhound Friends had left Moe — a greyhound who had been diagnosed with aggressive cancer — waiting for surgery for nearly two months. Much of this seems like it would be beyond the scope of an animal control officer's role.

Does the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources provide enforcement of kennel regulations?

The agency's primary mission is to help keep the Massachusetts food supply safe and secure. As part of this role, they oversee 7,755 farms. They also register the hundreds of animal shelters and rescues operating in Massachusetts.

Didn’t Greyhound Friends terminate its executive director?

In March 2017, Greyhound Friends issued a statement that Executive Director Louise Coleman was taking a leave of absence. In August 2017, Greyhound Friends Board President Stoddard Melhado wrote a letter to the Mass Department of Agricultural Resources stating that the executive director had been terminated in May 2017, and that the board would accept this as a term of lifting the cease and desist order. However, the letter did not go so far as to say that Ms. Coleman would not be hired back in a lesser capacity. Notably, a MetroWest Daily News interview with an adopter indicated that Director Coleman was still involved with the organization in April 2017, despite public statements to the contrary.

Moreover, numerous reports indicate that the problems uncovered at Greyhound Friends extend beyond one individual. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources reported that the “[Greyhound Friends] board of directors appears unwilling or unable to provide proper oversight" and found that "Director Coleman, the Greyhound Friends Board of Director and the shelter veterinarians working at Greyhound Friends appear to be complicit in importing dogs with infectious and contagious disease into the Commonwealth - thereby putting Massachusetts dogs at risk."

Was the Greyhound Friends Board of Directors aware of problems with the care of animals?

It seems clear from the records that they were aware of many serious animal husbandry problems. As one example, in 2015, MSPCA Law Enforcement, Animal Rescue League Law Enforcement, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources met with Greyhound Friends board members about significant animal welfare concerns. At the close of the meeting, Board President Stoddard Melhado assured officials that "we hear you loud and clear." However, the issues were not resolved.

Renowned animal behaviorist Kelley Bollen noted many of the same problems during a visit in 2016, cautioning the Greyhound Friends board of directors that some of the kennel's practices were inhumane. It appears that these concerns were not addressed by either the executive director or the Board of Directors. 

Problems were further compounded in 2017, when officials found the kennel in such a state of disrepair that they deemed it "an unsafe place of detention for animals". 

Could these problems have been due to a shortage of funds?

It does not appear so. According to Greyhound Friends' five most recent filings with the IRS, the organization took in more than $3.5 million dollars over that time period. In addition, some of the spending decisions of the organization seem very unusual for an animal shelter of that size. During that time period, the charity spent more than $136,000 on travel expenses (including fact finding missions for friends and board members), in excess of $197,000 on PR/advertising, and loaned thousands of dollars to relatives. 

Who was responsible for financial decisions at a charity like Greyhound Friends?

According to the Attorney General's Guide for Board Members of Charitable Organizations, board members of nonprofit organizations have a “primary responsibility to make sure that the charity is financially accountable, that it is not allowing charitable assets to be used inappropriately or diverted to private interests, that it has mechanisms in place to keep it fiscally sound, and that it is properly using any restricted funds it may have."

Did Greyhound Friends repair the kennel?

Yes. After numerous warnings and the receipt of the latest cease & desist order from the state, Greyhound Friends did make repairs, such as replacing chain link, fixing holes in the floors and walls, and painting. Despite Greyhound Friends' claim that the kennel is "state of the art," the cages appear to be just as narrow as they were before.

In a lengthy report to the Greyhound Friends board of directors in September 2016, animal behaviorist Kelley Bollen stated that the cages were entirely too small for the dogs being housed in them. “Most of the greyhounds have only enough space to lie down and when they do so, their backs and feet touch each wall. This is NOT adequate space for a dog even for a short stay but many of these dogs have resided in these cages for weeks, months or even years.” She also urged Greyhound Friends to open up the “guillotine” doors between the cages to give dogs more space, but cautioned that this would still not be adequate space for dogs of that size.

The Greyhound Friends Board of Directors responded to these concerns by taking a photo of themselves posing in the cage, laughing and claiming the cage was large enough to fit many people. Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, a highly regarded shelter veterinarian and co-author of the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, said that demonstration shows "no empathy or understanding for the experience of a canine…None of these people had to stay there for weeks, months, or years…The denial of their leadership that there is a problem in kennel size, sanitation, and day to day existence of the dogs in their care demonstrates either callous ignorance or magical thinking."

Will it be difficult for greyhounds to find homes if Greyhound Friends does not get its license reinstated?

This is highly unlikely. Greyhound racing has been banned in Massachusetts for nearly a decade and is now in significant decline across the U.S. and around the world. This fact was recognized by Greyhound Friends several years ago when it began taking in mixed-breed hounds, and stated that they were doing so “because they were looking for additional sources of income since greyhound racing no longer exists in Massachusetts.”

There are many animal rescue organizations to help rehome dogs. In 2015, there were 355 registered animal shelters and rescues operating in Massachusetts, including numerous rescues that are dedicated specifically to greyhounds. In 2016, the number of animal rescues operating in Massachusetts increased to 365.

In addition, there are advocacy organizations dedicated to ending greyhound racing across the globe, and funding adoption programs in the few regions where greyhound racing still exists. For example, when the most recent U.S. track closed in Tucson, Arizona, adoption organizations across the west coast mobilized to find homes for the hundreds of dogs there. More recently, many breed-specific and general animal rescues have stepped up to find homes for dogs in preparation for the closing of China’s only greyhound racetrack, the Canidrome.

It should also be noted that Greyhound Friends has stated that they do not oppose greyhound racing. In fact, the organization’s recent annual filing with the IRS shows that their highest paid consultant was a greyhound racing breeder and a longtime vice president of the National Greyhound Association, an industry organization that registers racing greyhounds. 

What can I do to help?

Click on the button below to sign the petition and share it with your friends. Please contact us for more ways to help.