CHARLESTON, W.Va. - For the first time, the state Racing Commission is considering adopting an animal cruelty policy.
It's an attempt for the agency -- which oversees horse and greyhound racing in the state -- to clarify the authority it already has to punish racing permit holders if there is proven abuse, said commission Executive Secretary Jon Amores.
"This policy kind of clarifies how important and just how committed we are as a commission to addressing cruelty," Amores said Tuesday during a commission meeting.
The three-paragraph policy outlines what disciplinary action state code allows the commission to take. The commission will investigate all reported acts of animal cruelty, mistreatment, neglect, abandonment or abuse, the policy states.
It can pursue administrative punishments up to and including fines and revoking a racing permit. The commission will also consult with a state veterinarian to see if the alleged abuse or neglect is a crime.
Although they initially planned to approve the policy, commissioners eventually decided to post the policy for public comment. Amores said the policy should be on the commission website today.
The commission's authority to dole out punishment recently came to the forefront when it revoked two permits and suspended another for three men involved with racing at Wheeling Island Racetrack.
Commissioners declined to refer the three men -- James Grace, James Bloom and Christopher Bever -- to the Ohio County prosecutor. They agreed they needed more information.
"We need to be more thorough before we make decisions," Commission Chairman Jack Rossi said during the meeting. "I think we need to defer this issue to get further information.
A board of judges ruled Bloom and Grace didn't provide care to an injured greyhound at the kennel. The dog, Kiowa Dutch Girl, appeared to have a broken hind leg but was not given proper medical attention or pain medication, according to a report filed by commission veterinarian Lori Bohenko.
During Tuesday's meeting, Amores said there was "quite a bit" of evidence concerning the case involving Grace and Bloom. The commission has photographs of the injured dogs, sworn statements from Grace, Bloom and others, and several reports from Bohenko.
The Daily Mail obtained information about the case in June after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
In the report, Bloom says Grace told him to let the dog heal on its own. The leg "looked broken, she was wobbly, she'd try (to stand) but she couldn't," Bloom said in the report. Grace also said he knew the leg could have been broken but said he'd seen dogs' legs heal without going to a vet.
In a different report, Bohenko also says kennel operator Bob Mackey violated rules. Grace and Bloom had been told to take the dog to the vet immediately. Grace said he spoke with Mackey the day of Bohenko's visit.
The veterinarian, who confirmed the dog's leg was broken in three places, also confirmed speaking with Mackey the day before the dog was brought to the clinic.
"Since Mr. Mackey had been informed by State Presiding Judge to transport 'Kiowa Dutch Girl' to a veterinary hospital immediately .<!p>.<!p>. he is in violation of West Virginia Rules of Greyhound Racing as outlined below," Bohenko wrote.