The news shocked the racing community and animal advocates alike: Veteran greyhound trainer Malcolm McAllister had his license revoked on April 24 after five of his dogs tested positive for cocaine.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, McAllister "opted not to dispute the findings and waived his right to a hearing.” In a written statement, McAllister conveyed "great sadness and disbelief" about what happened and denied any knowledge of how the drugs got into the dogs’ systems, the Times reported.
In a statement issued to petMD.com, Derby Lane, the Florida dog track where McAllister worked, assured that it "promotes responsible racing" and adheres to the guidelines set forth by the American Greyhound Council and the National Greyhound Association, as well as its own rules and policies.
"In a perfect world, there would be no need for rules, but those that don't comply are dealt with and are not welcome to race at Derby Lane," the statement read. "For fans that celebrate the greyhound breed that truly is 'born to run,' our track will continue to offer responsible racing despite efforts from animal extremists that champion not only the end of the sport but the end of pet ownership as well."
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo praised the decision to revoke McAllister's license and the Derby Lane severing ties. "He shouldn't be anywhere near a dog track," Guillermo said, adding that the entire state of Florida should prohibit greyhound racing altogether.
The presence of cocaine in the greyhounds is disturbing for a multitude of reasons, particularly the effects the drug has on the animal.
Dr. Justine A. Lee, a board-certified veterinary specialist in emergency critical care and toxicology, told petMD that cocaine exposure in dogs can cause acute tremors, seizures, heart problems, and even death. Cocaine, which is likely used to "amp up" the dogs, is a sympathomimetic drug.
As such, the drug “overstimulates the sympathetic system of the body, making the dog hyperactive,” Lee explained. “Clinical signs include central nervous system (CNS) stimulation (such as hyperactivity, dilated pupils, tremors, or even seizures), an elevated heart rate, gastrointestinal signs (e.g. drooling, vomiting), and hyperthermia," among other signs.
While there is little information on the chronic effects of cocaine on dogs, the short-term effects occur very rapidly, Lee described. "Unfortunately, it reaches blood levels very quickly, within 12 to 15 minutes after exposure,” she said. “This drug rapidly crosses the blood-brain barrier, which means it gets to the blood flow of the brain very quickly."
The median lethal dose (or LD50) for dogs who ingest cocaine is as little as 3 mg/kg, Lee added.
If you suspect a dog has been given (or has accidentally ingested) cocaine, immediately contact the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center.
Image via Shutterstock