Two days ago, we broke the news that a woman arrested in 2002 in connection to a massive greyhound graveyard was still involved in dog racing in Florida. The owners of the track where Ursula O'Donnell was a "trainer of record" say they asked her to step down.
Today, the National Greyhound Association (NGA), issued a statement saying it "did not have legal grounds to take unilateral punitive action, especially when the individuals remained eligible for licensing in racing jurisdictions."
I called the NGA, the industry trade organization, earlier today for a comment regarding O'Donnell's work status. I left a message for Executive Director Gary Guccione. The call has not been returned.
Most of today's public statement was an attack on Carey Theil, executive director of the antiracing lobby GREY2K USA.
"Grey2K is always grasping at straws trying to distort the record," the statement reads. "Maybe Carey thought he could get away with lying about NGA's position. Nice try, Carey."
Reached via email, Theil responded:
"The National Greyhound Association claimed today that they lacked the authority to expel greyhound trainer Ursula O'Donnell, who was recently asked to leave her position at Naples-Ft. Myers Greyhound Park.
"This claim is contradicted by numerous statements they have made over the years, including a 2009 press release in which NGA Board Member Fred Fulchino asserted that 'those who violate industry standards are subject to lifetime expulsion.'
"It is not surprising that the NGA is refusing to act in regards to O'Donnell. Sadly, this cruel industry prioritizes the financial interests of its members over the health and welfare of greyhounds."
The NGA says it took no action against Ursula O'Donnell because the court case against her was dropped (when the security guard who confessed to shooting more than 2,000 greyhounds died) and she is still licensed in certain venues -- namely Florida.
According to a spokesperson at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, O'Donnell is fully licensed to be the trainer of record in Florida.
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Below is the entire NGA statement:
NGA Executive Director Gary Guccione has released a statement responding to misinformation posted by Grey2K spokesperson Carey Theil regarding NGA's position on the case of a Florida greyhound trainer recently dismissed from her kennel job at the Naples-Fort Myers Track.
"Grey2K is always grasping at straws trying to distort the record," Guccione said. "Maybe Carey thought he could get away with lying about NGA's position. Nice try, Carey."
Theil claimed that NGA publicly expressed support for Ursula O'Donnell, who was relieved of her duties last week by her kennel operator employer at the request of track officials after they learned of her alleged involvement in a 2002 felony animal cruelty case in Alabama. The charges were filed against O'Donnell and kennel operator Robert Rhodes, for whom O'Donnell worked at the time.
According to Theil, NGA "was contacted about this situation and told a reporter that they support Ursula and her ability to work in the industry. I find that shocking."
Guccione's statement reads as follows:
"Contrary to Mr. Theil's assumption, the NGA office has NOT been contacted by a reporter, nor has the NGA publicly commented on the O'Donnell matter.
"For Mr. Theil to say that NGA supports her activity in the sport suggests an endorsement, which is not the case. NGA, as the sport's official registry, neither supports, promotes or endorses any specific individual, kennel, farm or entity in the sport.
"In 2003, when this case went to court, the NGA Board held a hearing for Robert Rhodes and, reciprocal to Florida's having revoked his license and found his actions reprehensible, banned him from any activities in the sport.
"The NGA and the state of Florida awaited a final judgment on the legal cases against four other individuals, including Ursula O'Donnell, who had also been charged in the case. When Rhodes died soon thereafter and the court case was dismissed with no convictions, NGA's legal counsel advised that we did not have legal grounds to take unilateral punitive action, especially when the individuals remained eligible for licensing in racing jurisdictions.
"Since 2002, three of the four individuals have left the sport. There have been no negative incidents involving Ms. O'Donnell since that time, and her ability to be licensed by racing states remains intact."
Guccione concluded, "If Carey was concerned about NGA's position, why didn't he just pick up the phone and ask us? Maybe, as Jack Nicholson would say, he couldn't handle the truth."
UPDATE: Since I first posted the contents of the NGA statement, it has been changed. Some of the remarks directed at Mr. Theil have been removed, as have the comments about not being contacted by a reporter. See the edited version here.