Editorial: Animal Welfare Community Group Urges Hopkinton Selectmen to Revoke Greyhound Friends Kennel License

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The animal rescue community has come together to urge the Town of Hopkinton to permanently revoke the kennel license of the dog kennel Greyhound Friends. Many in the community were shocked by a 236-page state report documenting Greyhound Friends’ neglect of sick and injured dogs, including a dog with aggressive cancer.

Some of the area’s most respected names in animal welfare, including President and Founder of Forensic Veterinary Investigations, LLC Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore – an expert in crimes against animals – as well as nationally known Animal Behaviorist Consultant Kelley Bollen, and half a dozen animal rescues who previously had taken dogs transferred out of Greyhound Friends, also wrote to the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen about grave concerns over the organization’s treatment of dogs. Many dogs seem to not have been given proper medical care and faced confinement for three and four years at a time – some allegedly with no opportunity to be adopted.

This week, the animal rescue community wrote a joint letter to the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen in an effort to help protect animals from a similar fate. The letter—signed by more than a dozen animal rescue organizations and animal protection organizations, as well as University of Winchester Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics Andrew Knight, Animal Behavior Specialist Alana Stevenson, M.S., First Parish Church Reverend John Gibbons, and All Saints Episcopal Church Reverend Marya DeCarlen—states, “We are writing to respectfully ask that the Town of Hopkinton say no to granting a kennel license to Greyhound Friends. In light of the documented evidence of animal neglect as well as the years of animal welfare violations, we feel it would not be prudent to allow Greyhound Friends to have animals in its care.”

The Greyhound Friends kennel has been closed at least three times in the past due to animal welfare violations ranging from illegal import of dogs to holding dogs in cages that were too small. Between 2015-2017, the Law Enforcement Division of the Animal Rescue League, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals found Greyhound Friends keeping dogs in unsafe and unsanitary conditions numerous times. One state report called out the Greyhound Friends board of directors for being “unwilling or unable to provide proper oversight.”

“When the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and the Animal Rescue League (ARL) act against an organization they do not do it lightly, said Dr. Smith-Blackmore. “They start with counseling and advice, and increase enforcement pressure in the face of inaction. The fact that the shelter and its leadership are in the bright lights of MDAR and ARL action speaks volumes about the seriousness of the situation."

After numerous warnings from the agencies went unheeded, the ARL filed felony animal cruelty charges against Greyhound Friends Executive Director Louise Coleman for unsanitary conditions in the kennel. In December 2017, Coleman was acquitted of the charge. But soon afterwards, reports from MDAR revealed that Greyhound Friends neglected the care of sick and injured dogs, including a dog left untreated for four days after being attacked by other dogs at the kennel. The state veterinarian reported that“these dogs’ cases were brought forth as examples of the lack of adequate care that pervades the culture of Greyhound Friends…they are not the only animals that suffered [there.]”

Greyhound Friends is also currently under investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for potential misapplication of donor funds intended for rescue dogs and for potential breaches of trust. Earlier this year, the AG’s Office expanded its investigation into the charity.

Many volunteers from greyhound adoption groups around the country also joined in signing a petition by more than 1,600 people opposed to relicensing Greyhound Friends, pointing out that “there are plenty of other greyhound adoption groups.” One former board member for a greyhound adoption group stated, “inspections of this facility suggest it is poorly suited for handling large dogs, management practices in caring for the dogs was grossly inadequate, and there appears to be little chance that past or current managers would change their practices.”

Animal rescue watchdog groups Rescue-Watch and PETA have also exposed problems with animal care at Greyhound Friends. PETA noted, “one of Greyhound Friends’ greatest expenses in 2015 was a payment made to a greyhound breeder in Florida. A growing number of self-professed "rescue" operations are being revealed to be little more than financial scams.

In addition to cruelty-to-animals charges, fraud charges have been filed against many of them. The National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse, a program of the National District Attorneys Association, gives this warning with regard to animal-trading rings: "There is an entire industry of 'rescues' that warehouse animals in horrific conditions; however, the catalyst for warehousing is not a mental health affliction, but pure, old-fashioned, greed."

Over the past year since Greyhound Friends’ kennel license was suspended, former volunteers and staff members shared heartbreaking accounts of what they witnessed. In addition, many veterinarians; animal rescue organizations; as well as a group of nearly 50 Hopkinton residents penned a letter to the Hopkinton Board of Selectmen, stating in part, “The Hopkinton Board of Selectmen already warned Greyhound Friends that if they violated the rules of their kennel license again, the license would be permanently suspended. Greyhound Friends has been caught violating the rules of its kennel license at least ten times since then. They also violated regulations after the Town of Hopkinton temporarily suspended the kennel license in January 2017.

There are more than 200 registered animal rescues and shelters in the Commonwealth, and we know of no other animal organization with a pattern of ongoing problems like this…We understand the inclination to want to give people a second chance, but this organization has had chance after chance to care for dogs properly and it is clear that they failed…We feel that the risk to animals is far too great to allow [Greyhound Friends] to be entrusted with the care of animals again.”

The Town of Hopkinton has scheduled a public hearing about the kennel license at the Board of Selectmen meeting on the evening of August 7, 2018. The meeting location will be posted on the town website shortly. Members of the public can comment on the situation during the meeting, or send comments in advance to [email protected].

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**This article was written by a group or person in the Hopkinton Community and does not reflect the views of HCAM or any of their Board Members or Employees.**