Greyhound racing industry secrets. *Info is out-of-date.
|The Wrongful Extermination of Injured or Retired Dogs
*** DISCLAIMER: DUE TO AN OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF RESPONSES TO THIS PAPER CRITICIZING MY FOCUS ON BAD OWNERSHIP AND POOR TREATMENT I AM OBLIGATED TO POINT OUT THAT THE PURPOSE OF THIS PAPER IS TO BRING TO LIGHT THE CRUELTY WHICH OCCURS EVERY DAY IN SOME SECTIONS OF THE GREYHOUND RACING INDUSTRY RATHER THAN TO INVESTIGATE THE GOOD AND I UNDERSTAND THAT THE NUMBER OF CARING, DECENT HUMAN BEINGS WORKING IN THE RACE INDUSTRY OUTNUMBERS THE BAD. BEFORE CRITICIZING THIS FOCUS PLEASE CONSIDER THAT SUCH PUBLICITY COULD RAISE AWARENESS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY AROUND THE GLOBE AND FURTHER DECREASE THE RISK OF CRUELTY TO THESE WONDERFUL DOGS.***
B. Humane versus Inhumane
A. Primary purpose
B. After retirement
A. Primary purpose
B. After retirement
V. Sporting dogs
A. Primary purpose
B. After retirement
B. Primary purpose
VII. History of Greyhound racing
VIII. Disappearance of Greyhound puppies
IX. Selective breeding
A. Spect So and P’s Raising Cain
B. Dominator and Hh Jelly Bean
C. Bohemian Bean
X. Controversy of selective breeding
XI. Greyhound racing as an industry
XII. Fixed races
XIII. Treatment of Greyhounds at the racetrack
XIV. Dangers of the racetrack
XV. Time and reasoning for Greyhound retirement
XVI. Extermination of Greyhounds
B. Introduction to news story
XVII. Case of Robert L. Rhodes
XVIII. Greyhound rescue
B. Example of organization
XIX. The National Greyhound Adoption Program
A. In processing of the dogs
B. Adoption process/screening
XX. Greyhounds in the family home
XXI. Results of extermination controversy on race tracks
There are many different breeds of dog in the world. Some hunt, track, swim, herd, run, or stand by man’s side. However, every dog gets old or injured- or both- at some point and man must take care of that animal. Some take better care than others. Most breeds are retired as the family pet or man’s companions. Other breeds are considered useless and replaceable and find their way into news headlines repeatedly for their mass extermination. This extermination is unjust as these dogs are just like their companion-animal counterparts. Different breeds of dog are bred for different purposes, but once they can no longer serve that purpose, they are exterminated despite organizations founded to rescue them.
Extermination serves a purpose, such as to take a dangerous animal off the streets and that is justifiable. By taking this one animal’s life, many humans’ lives and possibly other animals’ lives can be saved. However, exterminating a dog because it is “replaceable” does nothing for the greater good. Taking this life is only that; taking a life. Gary Guccione, director of the National Greyhound Association, says that extermination by lethal injection is humane (Halbfinger). However, death is death. Just because a dog can no longer serve the particular purpose he was bred for does not mean that he is not useful anymore. There should be no extermination, but there are many examples of this in America.
Collies are working dogs. They are bred “to keep sheep and cattle from straying and to protect livestock from predators” (“Dog”). When these dogs are too old to keep up with the livestock under their care, their owners can use them to help train a successor and ultimately retire them to be a family pet. The dog is still useful even though he can no longer herd, so he should not be exterminated.
Another example is the Newfoundland. These dogs are bred primarily for rescue work (“Dog”). Their thick coats, high fat content and large paws make them ideal for cold-water rescues. They jump from low-flying helicopters into the cold waters of Newfoundland to rescue stranded boaters. Most Newfoundlands will eventually suffer from one or more of the health problems that plague large breeds, such as arthritis and hip displaysia. When they can no longer swim with the agility of their youth, they can be retired to be a family dog. They are still useful to families as protectors and friends, so they should not be exterminated.
A final example are sporting dogs, such as retrievers and setters. These are bred primarily to hunt. Setters direct their owners towards a hidden animal while retrievers fetch fallen birds for the hunter (“Dog”). These dogs are highly praised by their owners. They could be retired to become family companions and act as reminders of great hunting days, thus they should not be exterminated.
The breed of dog that has been under attack by [exterminators] is the Greyhound. Greyhounds have a rich history. They are “the only canine mentioned in the Holy Scripture, Proverbs 30:29-31” and can be found in hieroglyphics on the walls of Egyptian tombs (“The History and Life of the Racing Greyhound”). Later on Greyhounds were bred primarily to hunt. They are sighthounds so, instead of using scent or sound, they use their eyes to hunt their prey. This method of hunting is what led to the Greyhounds’ use in coursing events.
Coursing events were first held in England in the 16th century. Greyhounds, and thus coursing events, were brought to America in the late 1800s. Though it did not catch on right away, new inventions such as the mechanical lure slowly brought more interest to the sport. The mechanical lure was invented in 1912 and made racing around circular courses—similar to horse tracks—possible (“The History and Life of the Racing Greyhound”). The first race around an oval track took place in Manchester in 1926 (Morris). It did not take long for Greyhound racing to catch on across America.
As Greyhound racing grew, more and more people started putting bets on the races. Soon the trainers realized that to get bigger cuts of the bets, they needed faster dogs. They began mating their fastest dogs in the hopes of producing an even faster pup. Not all puppies are given the chance to race, however; between 1989 and 2000 an estimated 112,051 pups out of the 507,596 born disappeared at some time between birth and registration (“Statistics”). These puppies could have made great family pets; they should not have been exterminated.
Dogs that do not disappear, but do not make good racers, often continue racing because of empty slots on race cards. However, there are some dogs that become terrific runners. These dogs are often result from selective breeding, a method of breeding in which two dogs, each with certain favorable traits, are bred to produce one dog with those traits (“Selection”). However, the success of this process is not always continuous generation to generation. For example, Dominator, offspring of Spect So and P’s Raising Cain, both high-stakes race winners, became captain of the 2000 All-America team. Dominator, with 63 wins in 148 races, and Hh Jelly Bean, with 27 wins in 186 races, produced Bohemian Bean who ran ten races with no wins (“Records”).
Many people believe that this type of breeding itself is cruel. “We’ve seen this before. A madman called Hitler was doing it, trying to create a superrace. Well, they’re overbreeding, because they’re trying to get superdogs” (Halbfinger). Not all dogs bred this way will be “superdogs” (Halbfinger). The Greyhound puppies that do not go on to race will most likely be found in a mass grave (“Gone to the Dogs”). This does not have to happen. These puppies are not completely useless just because they can not meet their trainers’ standards on the track.
It did not take long before the fact that the dogs made money for the owners, trainers, spectators and the track turned Greyhound racing into a business. It is actually considered an industry by some. The word industry is not so far-fetched. An industry is a business of manufacturing or production. In the case of Greyhounds, racing is a production industry. The dogs are produced as a source of income, with champions changing hands for as much as $72,000, and when competition gets fierce it is common for trainers to fix races to ensure that a certain dog wins (Morris).
BBC’s Paul Kenyon went undercover in 2001 to expose race-fixing and doping at an English race track. One point five billion pounds, or $2,130,300,000, are gambled on the dogs in the UK (“Gone to the Dogs”). However, because of fixed races, it is next to impossible to make any money betting on this sport; all of the money goes to the trainers and owners and their associates. One trainer and his colleague admitted to Kenyon that they made the equivalent of $15,622.20 from one fixed race (“Gone to the Dogs”). A drug dealer selling cocaine to trainers claimed to have made the equivalent of $41,185.80 in one day on fixed races (“Gone to the Dogs”). Drugs are a growing component of fixed races. Recently, a trainer in the United States was convicted of giving his dogs cocaine. However, over- or under-feeding is also an issue. All are used to either slow down or speed up certain dogs to ensure that a specific dog wins. This is only the beginning of the controversy at the track. Though making a dog a winner prevents its extermination, the losing dogs are sure to be exterminated
Whether the dogs are winners or not they are only dogs to many owners and trainers. Few Greyhounds are treated with the care they deserve as money-making athletes. They are kept in cramped kennels all day, taken out only to race and do their business outside. They are kept muzzled most of this time to prevent them from nipping at and potentially injuring other dogs. At race time, they are shoved into their starting boxes, the doors of which often slam down on their backs if they move too slow (“Testimonies”). The dogs are fed a small amount of dry kibble mixed with raw meat which is often not refrigerated and is bacteria-ridden. The food itself has made Greyhounds notorious for bad teeth. Some dogs have kennel sores all over their bodies because of inadequate bedding in the kennels. Many have infected toes and pads because of improper cleaning of wounds and failure on the trainer’s part to remove the dirt from the track that gets packed in between the toes. Preventable diseases, such as babesiosis, are passed dog to dog (Brevitz). Additionally, the dangers of the tracks themselves haunt many race track owners.
The mechanical lures the dogs chase consist of a crane-like arm that runs on an electrical cable around the inside of the track. The cable itself is uncovered, but runs through a type of ditch on the opposite side of the track barrier. The racing dogs often bump into one another while making the turns. Many have fallen through the barrier and into the ditch where the cable is. Some of these dogs survive the incident only to die later of blood loss from mangled or amputated limbs; others die instantly of electrocution. As bad as these hazards are, however, these Greyhounds face much greater hazards when they leave the race track because someone has mistakenly decided that they are useless.
Most racing Greyhounds are retired between the ages of two and five. Two year olds are usually retired because of lack of speed and improvement or because of serious injury. Five year olds are often retired because they are past their peak. They have slowed down, partly because of numerous injuries throughout their careers. Retirement saves the owners and trainers money. It is not retirement itself that is upsetting; after all, all athletes deserve a break. Where the dogs go after retirement is the issue.
A few retired Greyhounds are very lucky, especially the fast ones; they are set aside for breeding purposes. The majority are disposed of. A total of 368,096 Greyhounds were killed between the years 1989 and 2000, the majority of these after retirement (“Statistics”). Many types of disposal methods have been used on Greyhounds including, but not limited to: euthanasia, mass euthanasia, sale or donation to medical research, abandonment, gunshot, sale to racing interests in Third World countries, starvation, electrocution, bludgeoning, and even drugs, hanging, stoning, left to drown, and set on fire (“Statistics”). Investigations reveal cases such as this every year. A New York Times article, “Dismal End for Race Dogs, Alabama Authorities Say”, tells of a case involving the ‘slaughter’ of 1,000 to 3,000 Greyhounds ( Halbfinger). Three thousand dogs could have found loving homes and made many people happy, but instead were exterminated.
In Alabama, Robert L. Rhodes, a former Pensacola Greyhound Track employee, was convicted of three counts of animal cruelty May 23, 2002. Aerial photos showed ‘mounds of bones’ on his property. He claims to have been paid ten dollars per dog for their disposal. He also claims that he also shot them in the head and that “they didn’t feel a thing”. However, investigators found some dogs shot in the neck or mouth that would not have died a painless death (Halbfinger).
A movement of rescue organizations has successfully prevented the slaughter of thousands of race dogs. The numbers of Greyhounds going up for adoption has risen dramatically since 1989 when only 1,500 were adopted; an estimated 13,000 were adopted in 2000. More than 90 percent are either sent out for adoption or back to a breeder for mating (Guccione). There are now Greyhound adoption groups all across the country working to spread awareness and knowledge about the breed. The National Greyhound Adoption Program- NGAP- is just one example.
NGAP’s affiliate group in New Jersey takes in 8 to 24 dogs at one time. Upon arrival at the kennel, the dogs are bathed, fed and put to bed in a clean kennel with their own stuffed toy (Riccardi). The dogs are watched closely and notes are taken of their personalities and social interactions, not unlike the process prospective adoptive families go through; all adoption groups take personality and energy level into account during the selection process (Riccardi). A perfect match is important because if the new owner feels uncomfortable with the dog or cannot take care of it for some reason, they might not be able to keep it. This is where a close relationship with the adoption workers comes in. Phone calls are exchanged to evaluate progress. Progress is very important for rescue dogs. They must learn many new things, but are still useful as family pets.
Some dogs adapt to a family home quickly; others take more time. There are some Greyhounds that adjust, but remain skittish about certain things. One Greyhound owner says that her dog adapted to home life quickly, but is still scared of stairs, unfamiliar surfaces like shiny wood stairs, wind and other weird noises, “non-Greyhound dogs”, and the unexpected (McDowell). These fears can all be attributed to a Greyhound’s life in the kennel. There are few stairs, little more than concrete and dirt surfaces, no dogs other than Greyhounds, and a consistent routine. These dogs develop odd relationships with their kennel-mates. Many Greyhound owners have noticed that when a group of Greyhounds get together, they huddle “like a herd of zebras” (McDowell). They also attach quickly to any human who cares for them, following him or her everywhere (McDowell). As news of the great experience of owning a Greyhound spreads adoption numbers increase as does the response to the actions of the racing industry.
The revenue and attendance of all Greyhound race tracks has declined dramatically since 1990. The state revenue gained from dog racing dropped anywhere from 59 percent in Kansas to 84 percent in New Hampshire between 1990 and 1998. In addition, eighteen American tracks have been closed to live racing since 1991, though some of these remain “open for simulcasting” of live races elsewhere (“Statistics”). Also, according to Gary Guccione, director of the National Greyhound Association, “the number of dogs bred each year has been cut by more than 50 percent since 1990” (Guccione).
Though the drop in revenue at race tracks and the increase in adoption rates is a great start, there is still a lot more that can be done about Greyhound abuse. Greyhounds are dogs. Ron Schara’s Raven is a dog; Lassie is a dog; Wishbone is a dog. Greyhounds should be treated like dogs whether they are old or young, fast or slow, brindle or black. People need to show these dogs the same compassion that is shown to them. Many people say that animals cannot know, cannot remember; but their eyes tell a different story. They just want to be loved. They just want a chance to gather in a herd during a play-date, stand by their owner’s side, and fetch a fallen toy. Greyhounds want to be treated like cherished companions, not exterminated because someone decided that they did not meet the standard.
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Company, Inc. 2004. 164.
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-Halbfinger, David M. “Dismal End for Race Dogs, Alabama Authorities Say.”
nytimes.com. 23 May 2002. New York Times. 1 Oct. 2007.
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-“Pedigree of Bohemian Bean.”
-Riccardi, Merci. Personal Interview. Email. 29 Sep. 2007.
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Sep. 2007. <http://www.greyhoundracingsucks.com/grs_statistics.htm.>
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