Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act, Question 3 (2008)

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The Greyhound Protection Act, also known as Massachusetts Question 3, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in Massachusetts as one of three initiated state statutes. It was approved.

Passage of Question 3 meant that the state's two greyhound racetracks, Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere, had to close by January 1, 2010. Violators would face minimum fines of $20,000 by the State Racing Commission.

Question 3 had a winning margin in 12 of the 14 counties in Massachusetts.

Aftermath

Racetrack owners supported a push in the Massachusetts State Senate in 2009 to delay implementation of the law for two years. This effort was defeated in the senate in May 2009 by a vote of 29-8. Rep. Carl Sciortino had indicated that a bi-partisan contingent of state legislators from both houses will defend against any further attempts to repeal or delay implementation of Question 3. Sciortino expected that there would be a renewed effort to delay or repeal implementation in the Massachusetts State Legislature in late 2009 in conjunction with a push in the state legislature to expand gambling options in the state in order to enhance state revenues.[1]

On June 23, 2009, opponents of the measure asked that Lynn District Court initiate a judicial inquiry into claims that the campaign in favor of Question 3 committed election fraud by, in the words of their request, "knowingly publishing false information and offering inducements to voters."[1]

Despite opponents' efforts, the state of Massachusetts held its last live dog race on December 26, 2009. The ban was to take effect on January 1, 2010. The race took place at Raynham Park, which was formerly known as Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park before the measure was enacted. According to reports, the race symbolized the end of live dog racing in the region of New England for the time being. According to Christine A. Dorchak, president of Grey2K USA, who supported the measure: "I just thank Massachusetts voters for giving greyhounds a second chance. We have finally reached this wonderful day."[2]

The Connnecticut Greyhound Adoption group had taken the reigns in the effort to find homes for the more than 200 greyhounds available after the enactment of the ban. According to Nancy Javor, vice president of the group: “These guys make wonderful pets. If people were considering adopting over the next few months, now would be a great time."[3]

Election results

Massachusetts Question 3 (Greyhound Protection)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,662,352 53.6%
No1,303,70842.0%

Official results via: The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division

Text of measure

The official ballot summary for Question 3 was:[4]

This proposed law would prohibit any dog racing or racing meeting in Massachusetts where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs occurs.

The State Racing Commission would be prohibited from accepting or approving any application or request for racing dates for dog racing.

Any person violating the proposed law could be required to pay a civil penalty of not less than $20,000 to the Commission. The penalty would be used for the Commission’s administrative purposes, subject to appropriation by the state Legislature. All existing parts of the chapter of the state’s General Laws concerning dog and horse racing meetings would be interpreted as if they did not refer to dogs.

These changes would take effect January 1, 2010. The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.[5]

Specific provisions

The measure enacted the following provisions:

  • Prohibit any dog racing or racing meeting in Massachusetts where any form of betting or wagering on the speed or ability of dogs.
  • The State Racing Commission would be prohibited from accepting or approving any application or request for racing dates for dog racing.
  • Any person violating the proposed law could be required to pay a civil penalty of not less than $20,000 to the Commission.
  • The penalty would be used for the Commission’s administrative purposes, subject to appropriation by the state Legislature.
  • All existing parts of the chapter of the state’s General Laws concerning dog and horse racing meetings would be interpreted as if they did not refer to dogs.
  • These changes would take effect January 1, 2009.
  • The proposed law states that if any of its parts were declared invalid, the other parts would stay in effect.

Support

Supporters

The Committee to Protect Dogs and Grey2K USA were the proponents of the initiative.[6]

In addition to Grey2K USA and the Committee to Protect Dogs, the Greyhound Protection Act was endorsed by:

  • The Springfield Republican.[7]
  • The Blue Mass Group.[8]
  • A number of animal protection organizations including American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the United States, and the Animal Rescue League of Boston.[9]

Arguments in favor

Arguments in favor of the initiative made by its supporters included:

  • Thousands of dogs suffer inhumane conditions by being kept for up to 20 hours a day in small cages barely large enough for the animals to stand up or turn around in at the two Massachusetts' race tracks - Wonderland Greyhound Park and Raynham Park.
  • Hundreds of dogs suffer serious injuries while competing at the racetracks, including broken bones, head injuries, and paralysis.[10]
  • The dog racing industry has experienced a "catastrophic economic decline" in the past two decades, which has led to some race tracks seeking assistance from politicians, including direct subsidies, tax breaks, special trust funds, and expanded gambling rights.[11]
  • The Number of employees involved in operating the parks is not as large as the opponents claim and the bill will not take effect until 2010, which would provide additional time for the employees of the race tracks to seek employment elsewhere.[12]

Funding

According to campaign finance reports, as of November 1, 2008 the Committee to Protect Dogs had raised approximately $903,000 and had $9,169.09 remaining.[13] Grey2k showed no filings for 2008. Between 2005 - 2007 they filed as having received no donations or expenditures and $18,490.21 in liabilities although they appeared to have donated approx $55,000 dollars and well over $100,000 in staff and services to the committee since 2005. [14]

Opposition

The official ballot committee opposed to the initiative was The Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition which is comprised mainly of the owners of the two tracks that would be shut down, including George Carney, who had owned the Raynham-Taunton track for the past 40 years, and Charles Sarkis, owner of the Wonderland track.

A similar initiative made the ballot in 2000. The racing industry opposed it with television ads, arguing that the 2000 initiative would lead to the loss of 1,500 jobs along with $10 million in pari-mutuel betting and other taxes.

Editorial Opposition:

  • The Harvard Crimson[15]

Arguments against

Arguments against the initiative by its opponents included:

  • Massachusetts dogs are healthy and well treated, and that supporters of the initiative use photographs of hurt and emaciated greyhounds from other states to make its case.
  • If the initiative passes, it will lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs that support the Massachusetts economy.
  • The state will lose tax revenue from pari-mutuel betting.

Newspapers against

  • The Boston Globe [16]

Funding

According to campaign finance reports, as of November 1, 2008 The Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition had raised approximately $436,000 and had $7,720.38 remaining. It also received approx $215,000 worth of in-kind donations such as staff, postage, etc.. mainly from the 2 race tracks. They also hhad ave an additional $3,000 in liabilities[17]

Path to the ballot

Supporters submitted 45,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot on June 17. The legislature had until the first Wednesday in May to make the proposals law. They chose not to act on the proposals, and proponents had until June 18th to gather another 11,099 signatures.[18] The proponents have gathered 100,000 signatures, guaranteeing that the initiative had met the requirements and had a place on the ballot.[19]

Lawsuits

2008 lawsuit against

Opponents filed a lawsuit in March saying the measure was unfit for the ballot because it singled out the two tracks, when it should apply to the whole state. The Supreme Judicial Court took the matter under advisement after a hearing on May 7. 2008.[20]

On July 15, 2008 the high court advised it had rejected the lawsuit by the initiative's opponents, saying that the racing is a statewide concern.[21]

2009 lawsuit against

Protection of Working Animals and Handlers (POWAAH) -- a group that opposed Question 3 -- requested on June 23, 2009, that Lynn District Court open a judicial inquiry into claims that the campaign in favor of Question 3 committed election fraud by, in the words of their request, "knowingly publishing false information and offering inducements to voters."[1]

Proponents of Question 3 said that these allegations were without foundation.

According to POWAAH, the judicial inquiry they sought would not have led to the measure being overturned. Rather, they said, they wanted to draw attention to these concerns and/or allegations:

  • Question 3's sponsors, POWAAH said, misrepresented the conditions in which greyhounds are kept. Sponsors of Question 3 said that enclosures are too small and that racing greyhounds are subject to cruel treatment.
  • The Massachsetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, according to the POWAAH, "emailed and posted on its website illegal offers of free computer software for pledged votes."

POWAAH is a non-profit organization founded in 2009 that was supported by contributions from dog and kennel owners, adoption groups, and track workers.[1]

See also

External links

References

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Suggest a link
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Wicked Local Belmont, "Dog racing industry charges election fraud against ban group", June 23, 2009
  2. The Boston Globe, "The final lap for greyhounds in Mass.", December 26, 2009
  3. New Haven Register, "With racing's demise, homes needed for 200 greyhounds", December 23, 2009
  4. The Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth Elections Division website, accessed December 17, 2013
  5. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. The Nantucket Independent: "Ballot Question #3: The Greyhound Protection Act," Sep 10, 2008
  7. Springfield Republican
  8. Blue Mass Group
  9. The Committee to Protect Dogs: "Endorsements"
  10. The Committee to Protect Dogs: "Greyhound Protection Act"
  11. GREY2K USA: "Economics"
  12. South Coast Today: "OUR VIEW: End dog racing in Massachusetts," Sep 18, 2008
  13. Committee to protect dogs "campaign finance reports"
  14. Grey2k "campaign finance reports"
  15. The Harvard Crimson: "No on Question Three," Oct 27, 2008
  16. Boston Globe "Editorial"
  17. The Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition "campaign finance reports"
  18. Boston.com: "Four ballot petitions clear 1st obstacle," Nov 24, 2007
  19. HSUS: "Animal Protection Group Turns in 100,000 Signatures on Greyhound Protection Act Petition," Nov 20, 2007
  20. Boston.com: "Supporters amass signatures for dog racing ban," June 18, 2008
  21. Associated Press: "Court rejects challenge to dog-racing initiative", July 15, 2008