Some people believe greyhounds are working dogs that enjoy chasing a mechanical rabbit, and at the end of their exciting careers become recycled into a family pet – a nice life with the ultimate retirement. This however, is just not the way the story goes, and in the case of my repurposed greyhound, he simply beat the odds.
The real story is the life of a greyhound is not even close to nice. When housed at the race track, they spend about 20 hours of the day confined in small cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around. If their stats are below par, they are retired from racing. A retired female may end up as a brood, spending years on a farm breeding more potential racers. Some retirees end up in veterinary research labs because greyhounds have a universal blood type and because they are so docile, they are easy to handle. The lucky get adopted, and the remaining gets destroyed.
Over 15,000 greyhounds were registered in 2009(1). More were born but got culled as they were not suitable for racing. Many suffer broken legs or necks, spinal cord paralysis or go into cardiac arrest while racing and have to be put down. Some states do not require that records be kept on injuries or deaths, which I suppose is deemed too much information for the public. The industry does admit though to destroying thousands of greyhounds each year, which is estimated to be as many as 3,000(2).
I was shocked when I recently read that greyhounds tested positive for cocaine at a track in Birmingham. It’s hard for me to even get my head around this act of cruelty. My husband took me to our local track to see the deal firsthand. What I saw was mostly shady characters who probably consider gambling their “job” and a few semi-normal people that might have been just looking for something different to do on a Saturday night.
Thanks though to the tireless efforts of GREY2K USA, a non-profit group headed by the talented Christine Dorchak, who serves as both President and General Counsel, only 23 tracks are still operational in 7 states: Alabama has 3 tracks, Arizona one, Arkansas one, Florida has 13, Iowa has 2, Texas one, and West Virginia has 2. Gone most recently are the tracks in Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Oregon.
This amazing group has been able to ban greyhound racing by working with state politicians to pass the “Greyhound Protection Act,” while defeating attempts to keep tracks alive with subsidies and tax breaks, or the back door approach where promoters lobby for a law legalizing slot machines to save the live racing. If the tracks are successful at getting slots, they remain economically viable and the dogs continue to remain disposable commodities.
Defeating dog track owners is no easy task. It has taken the hard grassroots approach of collecting thousands of signatures in order to place a measure to end dog racing before voters. People were shown state records documenting hundreds of injuries, along with actual video footage of terrible collision that are common occurrences and photographs of the endless confinement greyhounds endure. This hard proof gave the greyhounds a voice. And the numbers and force of the people proved that small groups of people really can bring about big change.
There is currently a blogger dedicated to seeing that that last remaining track in Arizona is closed http://www.endtucsongreyhoundracing.com/blog/. She discusses the issues associated with this industry in no uncertain terms. There is also something like 350 greyhound rescue groups throughout the U.S. comprised of volunteers that find ways to transport, feed, medically treat, house and market these dogs to the public. If a track closes, these groups network in an effort to place dogs across states. You can imagine the constant work involved to make even a dent in the number greyhounds needing homes in a state like Florida with a whopping 13 tracks. What does this say about my state of Florida? Gambling trumps animal welfare?
I was initially put off to hear that my local rescue group was neutral on racing, but then it occurred to me that they are dealing with ruthless people and this is their way of getting in to make the saves. I had the experience of going with members of a rescue group to pick up dogs as space had become available. We went to a kennel that was full of all these beautiful dogs in all their wonderful colors stacked in crates with their almost human eyes looking so intently at us as if to say, “please pick me.” It was heart-wrenching to leave with only two, and no one can convince me that another group came to that particular kennel to pick up the rest.
My greyhound Buddie, who raced for a short period under the name Mr. Pibb, is an amazing recycled dog. He is gentle and loving and gives standing hugs if allowed. He is an ambassador for his breed using his charm to get hugs and kisses by people everywhere he goes. Most tend to think greyhounds are full of energy, but the truth is they are used to lying around and being active for only short periods of time. Other things that people usually don’t know is that greyhounds don’t bark, they have a sweet smell and barely shed, they walk right by your side on a leash and many enjoy cats. What more could you ask for in a pet?
If you are interested in learning more about greyhounds or adopting go to http://www.grey2kusa.com.
(1) National Greyhound Association, Breeding Stats, 2009.
(2) National Greyhound Association, KABC Channel 7 ABC TV, February 20, 2009.