Written by Judy Kody Paulsen, Founder, Greyhound Companions of New Mexico.
A Home for Every Greyhound?
Those of us involved in finding homes for retired racing greyhounds would like to see every greyhound in a safe, loving home. Unfortunately, reality is painting a more dismal picture. Organized greyhound adoption dates back about twenty years and yet the racing greyhound is still being destroyed in numbers far greater than any other single breed of dog. The number of greyhound adoption programs across the United States has proliferated to approximately 200, yet the daunting task of finding homes for every greyhound too slow or too broken to run has remained frustrating and ineffective.
The National Greyhound Association has yet to develop an effective policy for overseeing those responsible for the welfare of the animals that create the very backbone of their industry (pari-mutuel dog racing). The following facts are evidence that adoption alone does not suffice as a solution for ending the suffering of all racing greyhounds.
The Numbers Game:
Fact: Greyhounds must be bred in large numbers in order to produce only a few exceptional racers.
Fact: The number of greyhounds destroyed is next to impossible to determine since not all breeders, trainers, or owners must be registered members of the NGA. There is virtually no way the NGA could be aware of every greyhound bred for racing. Inexperienced breeders hoping to find that "one in a million dog" have gone out of business in the infancy of their breeding programs due to the lack of finances to "finish" a dog. These dogs are often not registered with the NGA, so there would be no way of knowing what happens to them.
Fact: Many of the dogs that never make it to the track are destroyed or are given away unsterilized, which opens the door for breeding by untrained individuals wanting to try their luck at producing racing dogs or coyote or rabbit hunters (which is yet another unfortunate destination for unsuccessful racers).
Fact: Information disseminated by the NGA pertaining to the number of greyhounds destroyed each year and the number placed into adoptive homes is misleading. Using the few surveys they distributed years ago, their statistics regarding the number of dogs being placed by adoption groups is pure speculation and likely overestimated. And for reasons given in above "Facts" they cannot possibly know the massive numbers of greyhounds actually being destroyed. Their claim that the number of greyhounds being bred each year is declining, must be regarded with skepticism since not all greyhounds bred for racing are registered with the NGA.
The Perfect Pet Theory:
Fact: Retired racing greyhounds can be perfect pets, but to imply that they do not have special needs as a result of the training/racing environment is to invite complications when an adopter observes behavior inconsistent with that described commonly in greyhound adoption literature. Racing greyhounds are raised, trained, and kept in environments that are very different from the home atmosphere most pets are kept in. This can create any number of difficulties for the unsuspecting adopter during the initial adaptation process and long into the period when most pets would be settled and predictable as companions. Often, greyhounds that come off the track will see more than one adoptive home as they are returned from one, two or three homes that are unwilling or unable to accommodate the peculiarities of a retired racer.
Fact: Retired racing greyhounds have often been exposed to conditions while in training and racing that can produce an animal that may need more veterinary attention than non-racers. Dental problems arising from the soft diets they are fed at the track; various illnesses resulting from the bacteria and parasites commonly found in their environment; injuries from running and just the overall stress of training, can combine to create a compromised immune system. The greyhound is generally a very sensitive dog that is easily affected by changes in its surroundings or stress in the adoptive home.
Fact: Greyhounds that have been adopted are being surrendered to various animal welfare agencies and returned to adoption programs in unacceptable numbers. This would suggest that adequate adopter screening procedures are not being enforced, and perhaps the retired racing greyhound is being casually placed into homes that are not appropriate for this unique, sensitive dog. Educating potential adopters is crucial in ensuring the greyhound is going into a well prepared home. See Greyhound Behavior.
The Grim Truth:
Fact: Cases of abuse and neglect of greyhounds by trainers and breeders are under-reported due to fear of retaliation by industry peers. The relatively small number of cases reported usually come from those who have defected from the industry in abhorrence of industry injustices and grotesque abuses witnessed. Fact: Because greyhounds are generally docile by nature, they are prime specimens for research and veterinary teaching schools. The number of greyhounds turned over to these institutions has been greatly underestimated as demonstrated by a recent disclosure that over 900 greyhounds had been surrendered by trainers to a Colorado veterinary school in one year. The figures had been previously reported to be in the range of 300 until greyhound rights advocates uncovered the grisly truth. The dean of this veterinary school admits they destroy 500 greyhounds per year that are not even used for any teaching purposes.
Fact: After their association with the racing industry was exposed, the Colorado university agreed to eliminate their practice of destroying the glut of dogs coming off the Colorado race tracks; however, it is interesting to note that the number of dogs now available to adoption programs in that area is nowhere near the large numbers once being turned over to the university — where are those dogs? Are they being shipped off to other areas where they can be disposed of without the media attention and heightened public awareness that now exists in Colorado?
Fact: Throughout the racing seasons all across the U.S., slow and injured dogs are loaded onto "kill trucks" to make room for better performers in the kennel. Some are euthanised, others are less fortunate and are shot or bludgeoned to death.
Fact: Greyhounds are transported long distances during the heat of summer in trucks without air conditioning. There have been tragic reports of trucks reaching their destination only to open the compartments and find dead or dying greyhounds as a result of exposure to extreme heat.
Fact: Other species of animals are destroyed as a result of the dog racing industry, besides dogs. Methods for training the most successful racers involve the torture and mutilation of animals that are used as "live lure" to heighten the prey instinct of the greyhound in training. Dogs trained by this method are considered ineligible for competing on most tracks; however, track officials often turn their heads to allow these more aggressive, crowd-pleasing dogs to compete.
For information on how you can help and details on some of the abuses within the industry, refer to www.greyhounds.org.