Researcher slams use of stats in dog debate

Jessica Scarpati

An Ohio-based researcher is accusing greyhound racing supporters in Massachusetts of misrepresenting her sports-injuries study to counter the argument that dog racing is dangerous to the animals.

Supporters of the state’s two dog tracks have used the federally-funded study to claim high school sports are more dangerous than greyhound racing.

But the study’s author says they inflated athletes’ injury rates in number and context.

A graphic published on the Web site of the Massachusetts Animal Interest Coalition, the group opposing ballot Question 3 to abolish dog racing, lists injury rates for sports like “boys football” and “girls volleyball” as a percent – a figure out of every hundred. But her study, according to co-author Dawn Comstock, measured the rates per one thousand.

“It’s quite a bit of a misrepresentation,” said Comstock, a researcher for the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The coalition’s campaign manager, Glenn Totten, said he was unaware of the mistake but stuck by the contention that greyhound racing is safer than high school sports.

“When you’re so far (an injury rate of) under 1 percent, as greyhounds are, the reality of any of those sports being much less than 1 percent is pretty slim,” he said.

The study’s merits as applied to dog racing is the latest volley in the hard-fought battle over Question 3, which would phase out greyhound racing by 2010.

A poll released last week from Channel 7 News/Suffolk University puts dog racing as the closest of the three ballot questions on the Nov. 4 ballot. With 13 percent of voters polled still undecided, the move to abolish dog racing won support from 44 percent, while 43 percent were opposed.

The greyhound injury rate has been a cornerstone of the anti-racing campaign, which points to state records reporting more than 800 injuries at tracks in Raynham and Revere since 2002.

Dog racing proponent argue that the injury rate is less than 1 percent.

The Enterprise