Greyhound racing started out with the appearance of being animal-friendly. After all, what dog especially a greyhound—doesn’t love to run and chase a rabbit? And in the races, no real rabbits are harmed. One would think that this type of sport would be fun for the spectators and contestants alike. However, as with many things, track owners and managers became greedy and saw opportunities to rig the game and make more money at the expense of the dogs.
As awareness of the harsh and cruel nature of the greyhound racing industry increases, its popularity continues to decline. Between the years of 2001 and 2012, the U.S. experienced a 70% decline in the amount spent on greyhound racing. While dog racing is currently illegal in 39 of the 50 states, there are seven states in which it is still legal, and those seven states contain a combined total of 21 dog racing tracks. On top of that, some states in which dog racing is banned still operate breeding kennels that provide other states with dogs to race. But what exactly is it about greyhound racing that has animal activists brokenhearted, angry, and wanting to take action?
First and foremost, the dogs are often overbred in order to “weed out” the dogs that are considered too slow or unsuitable to be race dogs. Breeders take the approach that the dogs that aren’t up to par can just be discarded to make room for the ones that would be the best racers. Many of these greyhound puppies that could otherwise be rescued or adopted are not given the chance—and they don’t even make it to the racetrack. But once the dogs are selected to train and race, the conditions are far below average for most of the animals. Often they are caged for up to 20 hours a day, muzzled, and drugged with any number of medicines. Some are injected with steroids to improve performance or to prevent females from going into heat. Many of the dogs are dehydrated and malnourished, with health problems such as ticks, parasites, and tooth issues.
When the dogs are locked in kennels for most of the day, they are usually alone. This is detrimental to their mental and physical health, as dogs—especially greyhounds—are pack animals. They need the socialization, and most of them will experience anxiety, boredom, and stress due to the solitary confinement. They may act out with destructive behaviors such as chewing or excessive barking and be so traumatized as to need rehabilitation before they can be adopted.
As if the dogs’ living conditions are not harsh enough, they tend to experience an extensive amount of torture on the racetrack as well. Greyhounds are often injured or killed during races, and those that are injured are not properly taken care of. Sometimes dogs break bones and are not tended to; sometimes they are simply euthanized as a replacement for medical attention. When the dogs reach a stage where they are no longer fit to run, they are often “retired” with a bullet rather than placing them with a rescue agency or a good home.
In the prime of their racing careers, the dogs are often subjected to some form of punishment if they aren’t performing as well as their owners think they should. There have been documented cases of electrocution and other forms of physical torture imposed on dogs that don’t run fast enough.
Another cruel element of the dog racing industry that some may not be aware of is the dogs’ transport. Large numbers of dogs are often herded into the back of a truck and transported long distances in extreme weather conditions. Drivers have been known to line the truck beds with ice rather than using air conditioning despite temps pushing 100 degrees or more. Sometimes up to 60 dogs can be transported in one truck, and many will die on the road in these crowded, unfavorable conditions.
There are ways that you can help besides pledging to petition lawmakers to help end greyhound racing especially if you live in one of the seven states where it’s still legal. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia. Even if you don’t live in one of those states, resources are available with organizations such as Grey2K USA, where you can donate and contribute in other ways to ending greyhound racing for good.
Adopting a retired greyhound is, of course, another way you can help; there are several rescue organizations that can help you find one. Most retired greyhounds are still young enough to be a good companion for several years, and greyhounds are very loyal and easy to take care of. In addition, there are many organizations that you can partner with to join the fight against racing and cruelty to greyhounds. You might also consider handing out informational pamphlets at a racetrack or writing a letter to the editor of your local paper. The more people educated on the damaging effects of greyhound racing, the closer we are to stopping the inhumane sport.
The first step in helping to put an end to greyhound racing once and for all is to stay abreast of the news in the industry. Each time a dog is saved is a small victory; it is encouraging to hear stories of rescue and hope. Even better are the victories achieved when a track shuts down or another state outlaws dog racing. Let’s work together one day at a time to end this practice for good.