Anti-racing group gathers more than 33,000 signatures

Jon Chesto

Critics of dog tracks are one step closer to the finish line of their quest to ban greyhound races in the state.

Carey Theil, executive director of Grey2K USA, said a coalition that supports a ballot question to end greyhound racing has gathered more 33,000 signatures in support of the initiative. That's roughly three times the 11,099 names that the group needed by next Wednesday's deadline to get the question on the ballot in November. Theil says the group has already collected more than enough signatures to survive any disqualifications in the final certification process.

This represented an easier hurdle to clear than a previous petition drive requirement to gather more than 66,000 signatures in support of the ballot question last fall.

The measure would essentially shut down the two greyhound racetracks in the state, Raynham Park and Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere. Critics say such a ban, which resembles one that was narrowly defeated by voters in 2000, could affect the livelihood of hundreds of people.

Theil said he believes his cause has more support this year because more information about greyhound injuries is available and the effort has more active support from other canine-friendly groups such as the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"We have the support of mainstream animal protection groups in a way that we didn't have eight years ago,'' Theil said.

Theil's cause still faces one more crucial hurdle: the Supreme Judicial Court. Raynham Park owner George Carney filed a lawsuit challenging the ballot question, arguing that it is too specific to be certified as a statewide ballot question because it only affects two businesses. The court is expected to make a decision in the case by mid-July.

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