Christine A. Dorchak is working hard to put her non-profit out of business. Since forming GREY2K USA, an advocacy organization focused on protecting greyhounds nationwide, she and her colleagues have closed 24 greyhound race tracks.
“The 24 left are still too many,” says Christine, president of GREY2K USA. “Greyhound racing involves so many cruelties rolled into one. Greyhounds are over bred to the point where there are too many dogs and not enough homes for them. Just like puppy mills, these dogs live in tiny cages with barely enough room to stand up and turn around in. Then there’s the issue of injuries. All this occurs so a breeder can make a buck.”
Life and Death
Her passion stems from her former dog, Kelsey, and a near death experience. One morning, she got hit by a passing train and was pronounced dead at the spot. At the hospital she briefly came to and then went into a coma. When she awoke, the only thing she could recall was her dog Kelsey. “I couldn’t remember my mother, my brother, anything except Kelsey,” she says.
She had to relearn how to talk, walk, and function all over again. “I knew two languages before the accident,” she recalls. “The only memory I had, was of my dog. It took me two years to get my life back to normal. My dog kept me going, and I owed her for that. It was because of her that I decided to help dogs.”
After her recovery, she started volunteering for numerous animal rights organizations. She participated in anti fur rallies, handed out leaflets about factory farming and vegetarian diets, and volunteered at shelters. She also became part of a group protesting outside Wonderland Raceland, just near Boston. “A group of us stood carrying picket signs right by the entrance to the arena every weekend, rain or shine,” she explains. “We were there on the coldest day and on the hottest. On Halloween we dressed in costumes. On other holidays, we wore our Sunday best.”
The protests continued, and so did the racing. “Not many people get hit by a train and walk away,” she says. “In 1999, we were approached by David Vaughn, who recently adopted a greyhound. He said, “If you want to really end greyhound racing, put down your signs and get on the ballot. He invited us to the office of a lawyer friend of his. Our goal was to end greyhound racing in 2000. I collected more than 15,000 signatures. We got enough signatures for a ballot question.”
“So GREY2K USA was born, and we were greatly outspent 5 to 1 by the racetrack owners. We lost by less than 2 percent of the vote. It was a hard fight and we were deeply disappointed, but we continued our fight.”
In 2000, Christine and three other members of GREY 2K USA were sued by one of the track owners for $10 million. “It was a publicity stunt,” says Christine. “He said we were defaming his character. Just like my accident, I felt helpless.”
It was then that she decided to become a lawyer. “I needed a lawyer and the greyhounds needed a lawyer,” says Christine.
A Full Scholarship
She received a full scholarship to the New England School of Law, and started law school in March 2001. The funny thing about her scholarship was that it was funded by one of the local track owners. “I discovered that George Carney, owner of the now former Raynham Greyhound Park, was the only non-lawyer on the board of directors of the New England School of Law, and that he funds all the scholarships,” she says. “At a graduation party, I made it clear that I had become a lawyer to write a ballot question to end dog racing and close his track. He just laughed and wished me luck. To his credit, and perhaps because he thought I was going to go away and become a corporate lawyer or something, he congratulated me and insisted on giving me my diploma on stage, which he did.”
A week after graduation in May 2005, Christine’s dog, Kelsey, died. “She was my number one cheerleader,” says Christine. “She was 15 years old. She stayed with me through my accident and through law school. She helped me through those years.”
While working in their small office, Christine met Carey Theil, who serves as executive director of GREY2K USA. The two worked closely side-by-side, and in 2007 got married. “It’s such a tiny space, that we either had to like each other or it wasn’t going to work,” she says.
While attendance at dog race tracks is down, every day, every month, and every year that it continues, more and more dogs suffer. “When we shut down tracks, we end cruelty,” she says.
GREY2K USA welcomes donations. They also sell jewelry and other products on their site. All proceeds go to end greyhound racing.