2 out-of-state greyhound owners banned from racing in Dubuque after investigation

Brian Ohorilko

A pair of out-of-state dog owners have been suspended from participating in races at Iowa Greyhound Park after an investigation revealed they were using banned practices to train their animals.

Oklahoma resident Wesley Parvin and Kansas resident Ursula O’Donnell had their licenses suspended immediately after they were found to have violated Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission rules. Specifically, these owners were involved in the “use of a live lure” at two facilities that train greyhounds.

Greyhounds generally chase a mechanical lure — such as a bone or stuffed rabbit — when they are training or racing. This lure provides them with an object to pursue and compels them to run at top speed.

“Live-lure training is using a live animal — usually a rabbit or a hog — in the training of greyhounds,” explained IRGC Administrator Brian Ohorilko.

He said IRGC officials in July received footage from Grey2K, an organization dedicated to ending dog racing. The footage shows handlers pulling live rabbits from cages, releasing them in front of dogs and leaving them to be chased, maimed and sometimes killed. This practice occurred at facilities in Texas and Oklahoma.

Ohorilko said 19 dogs that were trained at the offending facilities went on to have “official starts” — either in training or racing — at Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque, which is now the lone racing facility in the state. Eight of the nineteen were owned by O’Donnell, but the remainder had ties to local owners, according to Ohorilko.

A partnership between Tim and Allan Ertl owned six of the dogs, while a group of Allan Ertl, Brad Hess and Jason Hess owned five. Tim Ertl and Jason Hess are both listed as members of the Iowa Greyhound Association Board of Directors on that organization’s website.

Ohorilko said all of these greyhounds were removed from Iowa Greyhound Park voluntarily by owners either before the investigation or when they learned of it.

He also said there is no evidence that these owners knew about the illegal training methods.

Iowa Greyhound Park General Manager Brian Carpenter declined to comment Tuesday, referring all questions to the Iowa Greyhound Association lawyer, Jerry Crawford.

Crawford framed the issue as an out-of-state matter that did not directly involve any Iowans.

“There has never been a single incident of this kind of conduct in Iowa — not once, not ever,” he said. “It is a shame that Iowa gets brought into this when it is two people from out of the state.”

He shared the IRGC’s concern about the training methods used in Oklahoma and Texas.

“We absolutely agree that anybody who would train greyhounds on live lures, that that is inappropriate conduct,” said Crawford. “In fact, we have said publicly we would support legislation making that a criminal offense.”